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 Helen Marie Gaede Allen  (1914 - 2011)

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Lived/Active: Maine/New Jersey      Known for: modernist coastal view and still life painting, teaching

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Helen Marie Gaede Allen
An example of work by Helen Marie Gaede Allen
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information was submitted by Elizabeth Seaton, grand daughter of the artist.  The text is adapted from a brochure for the exhibition “Quarrying Form: The Paintings of Helen Marie Allen,” Bangor [Maine] Public Library Lecture Hall, August 2-30, 2012

Helen Marie Allen (1914-2011)

Equally inspired by a crashing sea or a placid quarry, Helen Marie Allen pared nature to its essential forms and colors in the many paintings she produced as an artist and art educator in Maine. Allen spent most of her adult life in Bangor, though much of her work grew from summer outings and workshops along the Maine seacoast. For thirty years she kept a studio at Bangor’s State and Pine Streets. There she taught oil painting when not pursuing her own art, which ranged from portraits to abstract landscapes, most of them in oil.

Among her works are coastal scenes from the 1960s, abstracted quarry views from the 1980s, and selections from her “Switchplate Series,” inspired by reflections in the chromed electrical covers thoughout her Kenduskeag Avenue home. (Allen mounted a switch plate on a box and placed still-life objects before them. She produced more than a dozen such works on canvas and paper.)

Becoming an artist was an early ambition of Helen Marie Gaede. She grew up in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and was introduced to color theory at the family’s silk-dying business in Paterson. As a young woman she continued her studies in color and design at the McLane Art Institute in New York City, intent on becoming a fashion illustrator, though she soon discovered studio painting. After her 1938 marriage to Francis D. Allen, a native of Columbia Falls, Maine she attended the Corcoran Art School in Washington, D.C.

Once settled in Bangor, the artist and her husband first lived in the Bangor House hotel, where he was a manager and she organized Bangor House art exhibitions. By the 1960s she was studying with Bill Moïse and Louise Braun at the Bangor Art Society. Soon Allen was teaching her own weekly classes through the art society. She exhibited regularly with the group, often at the Bangor Public Library. Later, she organized exhibitions of student work at the library and at Studio 4, the name she gave to her State and Pine Street working and teaching space.

Most summers Allen spent time in Sullivan, a Hancock County town whose historic granite quarries inspired her. While on the coast she attended workshops with such noted artists as Barse Miller, Chen Chi, and Frank Hamabe. She briefly turned her Carriage House summer home into a gallery, showing work by Moïse, Braun, Hamabe, Vincent Hartgen and the potters Weston and Brenda Andersen. Allen exhibited her work throughout Eastern Maine (often in Bangor, Blue Hill, Rockport, and Hallowell) and in selected cities along the East Coast (frequently in Springfield, Massachusetts).

Allen’s studies continued in the late 1970s with Leonard Craig at Unity College in Unity, Maine, and she continued to find excitement and inspiration in her everyday encounters, whether with the toaster on her kitchen table or a monumental cascade of granite blocks in an abandoned excavation.

Allen and her husband raised two daughters. Callie Allen Seaton is a painter in Winfield, Kansas; Page Allen Eastman is a photographer in Bangor, Maine.


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