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 Helen Frank Protas  (1908 - 1961)

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Lived/Active: Ontario/Florida      Known for: abstract painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Helen Frank Protas (1908 – 1961)

An early Florida abstract painter, she was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, on July 29, 1908.  Jewish – Canadian.
She was educated at the Hamilton Art School in Ontario, Canada, the Art Student’s League, and the Hans Hofmann School of Art (NYC)  where she developed her appreciation and love for abstraction.  She married Julius Protas on July 12, 1946.  Her work continued to develop and mature during this time in New York.  In 1951, she exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in their 75th Anniversary Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture in conjunction with the Art Students League of New York.  Her work was highlighted for its color and complexity.  She also exhibited her work in a number of other galleries in New York City in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.   In 1953, she exhibited in a one man show in New York at the Creative Gallery at 18 E 37th St.  
In that same year, a group of local noted Sarasota women formed the Petticoat Painters, a group of close knit women artists, which was limited to 20 women at any given point in time.  Among her peers were such well-known artists as Helen Sawyer (referred to as the heart of the Sarasota art world in A History of Visual Art in Sarasota), Marty Hartman, Judy Shepard Axe, Elsinore Budd, Stella Coler, Genevieve Hamel, Betty Warren, Eve Root, and later members: Mildred Adams, Shirley Clement, Sally Boyd Dillard, Dorothy Sherman Leech, Elsa Selian, Rose H. Spitzer.    Although not a founding member of this group, she joined shortly there after in conjunction with her move to Sarasota and produced this painting during her tenure with the Petticoat Painters.  

Well known nationally in the 1950’s, her art work was praised in Arts Magazine (Volume 29, 1954 and Volume 31, 1956).  She was a member of the Sarasota Art Association where she also exhibited in numerous shows throughout the 1950’s.   She also exhibited at the Gulf Coast Gallery in St. Petersburg, FL, Tampa University, the Ringling Museum of Art (1952-1953), National Academy of Design (NAD), Riverside Museum in Riverside, CA, and High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA.

In addition to the accolades she achieved as an artist, she, along with her husband, also founded and managed the Protas School of Art in Sarasota.  She also ventured into the management of art sitting as the Vice President of the American Art Directory in 1954.

Unfortunately, her life was cut short by illness, and she died at the age of 51 on May 15, 1961.  She and her husband were buried in Hamilton, Ontario at the Anshe Sholom Cemetery, the oldest reform Jewish temple in Canada.  
She is listed in:
Who’s Who in the South and Southwest, Volume 2005
Who’s Who of American Woman (1961) Volume 2
Sarasota:  A History
, by Jeff LaHurd

Information provided by Lisette Ruch

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