Helen Loggie: Celebrating a Northwest Legacy
A Retrospective: 1917 - 1956  IMA - 2010

Helen Loggie, a modern woman of her time, spent her life drawing images of things that fascinated her. From portraiture to dynamic scenes of New York, to bridges and magnificent cathedrals in Europe, and the vibrant fishing and lumber scenes of Bellingham Bay, but most importantly, the cathedral of nature that lay in her own backyard. It was her love of the Northwest, its mountains, islands and especially trees that spoke to her heart and ultimately became her passion and mission in life. 

 Gallery I of the Helen Loggie Retrospective at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art - IMA.  Seventy-six works of art were loaned to IMA from the Lambiel Museum, for the show.
Entrance to the Helen Loggie Retrospective at the IMA
Helen Loggie - Student work from her time at the Art's Students League in New York City - 1916-1924

Helen Loggie Etching - Central Park at 59th St  1918
New York – Student Years – 1916-1924

“Nineteensixteen was a period of excitement, experimentation and confusion in art. America was being recognizedinternationally for its art. Itwas a good time to begin her studies. New York’s reputation for its artists, art schools, museums andgalleries drew the talented. Itwas an atmosphere in which Helen’s talents could blossom.”

At the age of 21, Helen went to New York to attend theArt Students League, a school that was founded by artists for artistsback in 1875. Here she studieddrawing and painting with some of the most progressive artists of the time,like George Luks, Mahonri Young and George Bellows. Luks as well as other members of “The Eight”, highlyinfluenced the realist style that was taught at the Art Students League. “The Eight”, led by painter RobertHenri, was a group of artists known for their gritty, realistic depictions ofNew York street scenes and working class neighborhoods. We see this heavy, dark influence inHelen’s work from this period and in some of her later works as well. We also see her talent as a sensitiveportrait artist and her command of the human form. She learned the art of etching here, and it is possible thatCentral Park at 59 th Street,might have been her first. Helen was talented, and was being recognized assomeone to watch.

“Shewas a newcomer to the New York art world but she had learned to hold her own,and stride out ahead.”

Helen thrived in New York and loved being in the centerof the dynamic art world. When shewasn’t studying or drawing, she was going to galleries, museums and thetheater. Even after she moved backpermanently to the Northwest, she made yearly pilgrimages to New York, stayingabreast of the national art scene, attending concerts, visiting friends andhaving clothes fitted for her.

Quotes from - Beyond the Veil – The etchings of Helen Loggie, Exhibition, 1979 Whatcom Museum of History and Art, Bellingham, Washington

Helen Loggie - Chartres Cathedral - 1925 - Carbon pencil


“Likemany artists, Helen wanted to see Italy – the Florence of Michelangelo, theVenice of Titian and the art of Rome. Her decision to go there was probably based on her love of theRenaissance period. She waspreoccupied with Renaissance ideals and its intense concern for the meticulous,detailed statement.”

Loggie made three extended trips to Europe, following inthe footsteps of countless artists before her. After years of doing portraitureand city scenes in New York, she was now ready to take on the grand scale ofthe architecture in Europe, learn from the great masters she studied in themuseums, drink in the color and depth of the culture and history thatsurrounded her. It was quite adifferent scene from the dark and gritty New York she’d come from, and eventhough the cutting edge artists of “The Eight” had influenced her work before,she was now finding her own voice in Europe. Her work became much more detailed and refined, moreclassical in style. It would be awindow into her future works.

Helen’s time in Europe made her a better artist, but italso made her question what kind of subjects she really wanted to draw. Classical, old Europe was beautiful,but it didn’t thrill her like the wild beauty of her home. Her heritage lay in the new world, the still somewhatpioneering, northwest corner of America.

“It wasduring this time she realized she had more than mere technical skills, she hada unique vision and purpose; no longer would she make pictures from someoneelse’s point of view. She began tolook to her own unique experiences for that clarity of vision. While it is true much can be learned bystudying the history of Art, she no longer needed to repeat what had alreadybeen done.”

Quotes from - Beyond the Veil – The etchings of Helen Loggie, Exhibition, 1979 Whatcom Museum of History and Art, Bellingham, Washington

Helen Loggie  Etching - Shuksan in Winter - 1938

Transition back to the Northwest

Helen moved back to Bellingham in 1927 after her trips toEurope where she drew with great detail and skill the cathedrals, bridges,fishing boats and people. It wasnear the end of her time in Europe that she had what could only be called anepiphany that gave her such clarity about who she was and the message she washere to deliver, the beauty of her beloved Northwest and its fragilenature. She wanted people to care,honor and preserve it as she did.

Helen Loggie is known for her trees, but New York &Europe brought her to her trees. She now had the experience and technical skill to make portraits out oftrees and cathedrals out of forests. Perhaps the hustle and bustle of New York and the cities of Europebrought her to who she really was, a nature lover, more importantly, anAmerican nature lover.

“I wastoo busy working and traveling to realize that I was rather bewildered, that Iwas searching with new ideas for clarity of vision. Gradually there grew into my consciousness an issue I’dtaken always for granted and thought little about hitherto; That I wasAmerican…. Not for me were the ecstasies of French Gothic or the Italian hillswith their fabled bell towers. Otherartists, both American and European would go on depicting these lands and theirculture better than I ever could. I wanted to go back home, back to the forests where I had riddenrangers’ trails as a child, where sun shafts shot through dim-lit aislesbetween virgin trees creating Natures pure gothic, back to the mountains wherepure snow peaks dwarfed human ills; back to the islands where twisted treeswatched waves keep their eternal tryst with wind swept shores and where frailwild flowers sang Spring symphonies.” -Helen Loggie

Quote from - Beyond the Veil – The etchings of HelenLoggie, Exhibition, 1979 Whatcom Museum of History and Art, Bellingham, Washington

Helen Loggie Etching - The Vigilant - 1948
Logging and the Ships of Bellingham Bay

Growing up just blocks from Bellingham Bay and having afather in the logging industry, Helen loved drawing the exciting scenes of thelumber mills she’d known since childhood. Every aspect of it was dangerous and thrilling, from sawing giant logsto moving them along with grappling hooks down the steep chutes into the bayand loading the heavy, cut timbers onto the big ships, like the Vigilant.

She knew the Vigilant like the back of her hand andmade many drawings and plates of it sincethe early1920’s. It was one of hermost beloved subjects and popular etchings. Unlike the heavy, rough and tumble images of the loggingworld, her drawings of the Vigilantwere more reminiscent of the old masters with meticulous detail and beautifulrolling skies.

Whether it was the mighty Vigilant or the smaller, everyday working boats on Bellingham Bay,like the Swinomish, Helen gave eachboat and crew their due. It isquite astonishing to see figures of men, sometimes only a quarter of an inchhigh, fully recognizable and animated with action and purpose. Helen understood the significanceof portraying the scenes of everyday working life and its relevance as animportant subject matter for art.
Helen Loggie Etching - The Monarch of Woolard - 1952
Orcas Island, Trees & Nature

In 1930-31, Helen Loggie had ahouse built of her own design on the shores of Eastsound on Orcas Island. The island had special meaning to heras she had spent many summers there throughout her life. She reveled in the beauty of naturethere and it became her mission to capture its essence, preserving it throughher exquisite etchings of trees, little islands off shore and the views fromMt. Constitution. Helenwould sometimes spend weeks, months and even years on certain drawings beforeeven considering them ready for etching. She would visit the same subjects repeatedly, drawing them from slightlydifferent aspects, giving them incredible dimension and depth in the finaletchings. Her last etchings of thetrees she loved, were her final gift to us.

“Hertouch could be feathery, as if she might bruise the plants if she pressed toohard. Her attention to detail canonly be called passionate, as was her attention to the rhythm within a plant ora composition. The trees shesingled out to depict were often her life’s companions, chosen for strong andparticular character, and repeatedly drawn.”

Quote from - This Flowering Earth – The Drawings and Etchingsof Helen Loggie, Exhibition,2000, Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Washington

“Beautifullyexecuted drawings of trees, by Helen A. Loggie, make up an extremelyinteresting and unusual show in the print room at Kleeman’s. The artist individualizes her treestill she invests them with more personality than some portrait painters give tohuman beings….It is a mistake to suppose that personality exists only amongliving creatures….As the men of old counted time as nothing, matched infinitepatience with infinite skill, and built up creations with loving attention toevery detail, so Helen Loggie makes her drawings, deriving the same pleasurefrom describing the beauty of a single leaf or a rough patch of bark that led aGothic craftsman to lavish his skill and his devotion on some bit of detailhigh up on a cathedral tower where few men would ever see it.”

Excerpts from a reviewwritten about Helen Loggie’s first solo exhibit at Kleeman Galleries, New York in 1938 for the New York Times.

Photo courtesy of Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, WA

Helen Loggie Biography

Helen Loggie, a modern woman of her time, spent her lifedrawing images of things that fascinated her. From portraiture to dynamic scenes of New York, to bridgesand magnificent cathedrals in Europe, and the vibrant fishing and lumber scenesof Bellingham Bay, but most importantly, the cathedral of nature that lay inher own backyard. It was her loveof the Northwest, its mountains, islands and especially trees that spoke to herheart and ultimately became her passion and mission in life.

Growing up in Bellingham, Washington, with a wealthytimber magnate for a father, Helen did not have to concern herself with makinga living from her art, she was free to fully invest her life and time how shechose. Studying at the ArtStudents League in New York from 1916-1924 with some of the most influentialartists of that period, she found her footing in the art world. Spending thosesummers back in Bellingham and on Orcas Island, she spent her days down on thelumber docks or out in nature with dozens of hand sharpened pencils and hersketchbook, drawing the scenes of daily life she knew so well and loved.

As many young art students do, Helen traveled to Europeon several occasions for extended periods in the 1920’s. There she studied the art of themasters, the gothic cathedrals and the vivid picture of European life. She honed her technique and produceddrawings of incredible detail and beauty. Near the end of her time in Europe she had a great insight about herselfand knew that she wanted her art to represent her heritage and where she wasfrom.

After her trips to Europe, she moved back to theNorthwest permanently. This iswhen etching became an important tool in making her drawings more accessible tothe public and entering her work in national exhibitions, print clubs andsocieties. It also allowed her artto be more affordable, which was important to Loggie as she believed that youngpeople should be able to hang good art on their walls.

Helen chose to devote herself to her art form and forgoperhaps a more normal life of marriage and children. In fact, fairly early on she’s quoted as saying, “I made adecision. I would be an artist orhave a family life.” She dividedher time between her home in Bellingham and the house she had built on OrcasIsland, just a ferry ride away. Itwas on Orcas that she created some of her most important and recognized works,her exquisitely detailed portraits of trees.

Her work received much notoriety, winning many awards andbeing exhibited in some of the most prestigious art institutions in the world.Her highest honor was being awarded the title of Academician in 1971 from theNational Academy of Design in New York.
We see now that her choice to be an artist was a lifelongcommitment to expressing herself, her passion for nature and the vignettes ofeveryday life, through drawing with a patience and dedication that is rarelyseen.
 Stylus & magnifying glass of Helen Loggie
Leo Lambiel & myself at the Lambiel museum on Orcas Island, during the selection process of Helen Loggie's work for the IMA exhibit.

This was the first show I did with the IMA. I assisted the then Director in all aspects of the production, including: selecting the art presented, installation, co-designing the exhibit brochure as well as researching and writing the didactics for the show. The didactics now accompany the works of Helen Loggie at the Lambiel Museum on Orcas Island; which houses the largest exhibited collection of her work.


Curatorial work, Writing
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