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 Helen Fincke  (1919 - 1997)

About: Helen Fincke


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Lived/Active: Kansas/California      Known for: landscape painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following was submitted by Christine A. Fincke, the artist's niece:

Helen C. Fincke was born in Rosedale, Kansas in 1919 to Eastern European Immigrants.  Her father, a lawyer, died at about the same time that she was finishing college at the University of Kansas where she studied art under Raymond Eastwood, Albert Bloch, Bob Green & John Frazier, who were on the faculty at that time.  Helen's widowed mother then moved West  to relocate her family of three children in Los Angeles, California.

She began a long career of teaching in the Los Angeles public school system, until retiring in 1979.  She continued to pursue and create her own work up to a year or two before her death in Los Angeles in 1997. 

Helen left a sizable body of quality work; over several hundred pieces.  She may have been a student of / & or did a workshop with Rex Brandt, as there was a small study by him, framed, in her home at the time of her death.  She was not a collector; she was solely a maker of art, and a wonderful teacher.  There are possibly others of the California Regionalist movement that she had contact with, but I do not know this for certain, or who they might be.

I do know there are three distinct periods to her work:
1.Early 1940's -50's Plein Air Watercolors in the California Regionalist style she did while traveling in her old Woody station wagon (sometimes depicted in these historical scenes of California) from the Bay Area & San Francisco to San Diego; but mainly downtown Los Angeles, where she lived in Los Feliz, eventually purchasing a building of apartments.

2.1950's to early 70's  her work became more and more modern and abstract; these are acrylics, some collages and oils, a few mixed media.

3.The later work is primarily acrylic and gouache; consisting of very realistic landscapes, finely detailed, with great color and mastery of mood & technique.  At this point she had taken over a separate apartment she used as a studio and would hole up in it sometimes for days, unaware she had been working so long, once she finally emerged.

She loved to play the stock market and studied its trends and invested well.  No one in the family was aware that she had amassed an estate of over three million dollars (most of which she left to medical research) at the time of her death.  She never showed or sold her paintings or artwork, during her lifetime, as far as I know.  She was an elegant individualist, a truly eccentric soul, and she has left a unique glimpse of the times in California in which she lived.

These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
Student in the Dept. of Design at University of Kansas, Lawrence.
Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
Wichita Eagle (Feb. 4, 1940)
This and over 1,750 other biographies can be found in Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945) compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian at University of Kansas.

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