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Helen Lundeberg (1908–1999) was a prolific Southern Californian painter known primarily for her work as a Hard Edge (geometric abstraction) painter. She is also credited, along with husband Lorser Feitelson, with establishing the Post-Surrealist movement.
Early life and education
Helen Lundeberg was born in Chicago in on June 24, 1908, the eldest child of second-generation Swedish parents. In 1912 her family moved to Pasadena, California. As a child, she was an exceptional student and an avid reader. Her intellectual aptitude earned her inclusion in a Stanford University study for "brilliant children" in the Los Angeles area. During her early adulthood, Lundeberg's inclination was to become a writer.
In 1930, Lundeberg graduated from Pasadena Junior College. Post graduation, a family friend enrolled her in drawing classes at the Stickney Memorial School of Art in Pasadena. Due to a scheduling conflict, Lundeberg's life drawing class lost its regular instructor and the school happened upon artist Lorser Feitelson as a replacement. Feitelson's dynamic approach to composition and broad ranging interests in the international art scene inspired Lundeberg greatly. In conversation with Fidel Danieli, as part of the UCLA Oral History Project in 1974, Lundeberg explained, "When Lorser came and began to explain things, to make diagrams and to give us principles of different kinds of construction – light dawned! It was really very exciting." At Feitelson's urging, she began submitting work for exhibition in 1931 and by 1933 had secured her first solo show at the Stanley Rose Gallery in Los Angeles. The creative and personal partnership between Feitelson and Lundeberg lasted for the duration of their lives. The couple married in the 1950s.
Together in 1934, Feitelson and Lundeberg founded Subjective Classicism, which became known as Post Surrealism. This represented the first concentrated response in the US to European Surrealism. Unlike their European counterparts, American Post-Surrealist artists did not rely on random dream imagery. Instead, carefully planned subjects were used to guide the viewer through the painting, gradually revealing a deeper meaning. This method of working appealed to Lundeberg's highly intellectual sensibilities and her engagement with surrealism is present, to varying degrees, in her work throughout the rest of her career.
From 1933 to 1942, Lundeberg was hired by the Works Progress Administration to produce a series of easel paintings and murals. Though the artist was integrally involved in the design and execution of a number of murals in the Los Angeles area, perhaps the most notable is History of Transportation. Located in Inglewood, California, this 8 foot high, 241 foot long, mural is made of petrachrome and was recently restored. It depicts people from all walks of life employing various means of transportation from carriages, steam trains, automobiles and airplanes. The preliminary drawings for this mural are part of the permanent collection of the Nevada Museum of Art.
Move to Abstraction
During the 1950s, Lundeberg moved towards geometric abstraction and Hard Edge painting and away from the representational sensibility that had informed her early work. Though always based in reality, Lundeberg created mysterious images that exist somewhere between abstraction and figuration. Repeatedly described as formal and lyrical, Lundeberg's paintings rely on precise compositions that utilize various restricted palettes. Paintings from this period employ the idea of "mood entity", a concept in Post Surrealism that was concerned with evoking states of mind, moods and emotional content unique to each work.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Lundeberg continued her journey through abstraction, exploring imagery associated with landscapes, interiors, still life, planetary forms and intuitive compositions she called enigmas. In the 1980s, Lundeberg created her final body of work - a confident series of paintings that deal with landscapes and architectural elements. Throughout her 60-year career, Lundeberg imbued her work with a strong personal vision and a supremely nuanced palette. In 1999, at the age of 91, Lundeberg died from complications from pneumonia.
Helen Lundeberg's paintings have been exhibited widely in prominent museums, including the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the National Museum of American Art in Washington D.C. Her work was most recently included in the J. Paul Getty Museum's Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970, and in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibition titled In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States.
Louis Stern Fine Arts in West Hollywood represents the estate of Helen Lundeberg on behalf of the Feitelson/Lundeberg Art Foundation.
The American band, Sonic Youth have a song called "Helen Lundeberg" on their 2006 album Rather Ripped.
- Infinite Distance Architectural Compositions by Helen Lundeberg. 1st ed. Los Angeles: Louis Stern Fine Arts, 2007. 144. Print.
- Helen Lundeberg and the Illusionary Landscape: Five Decades of Painting. Los Angeles: Louis Stern Fine Arts, 2004. 11-17. Print.
- Haithman, Diane. "Helen Lundeberg; Artist, Pioneer of the New Classicism Movement." Los Angeles Times [Los Angeles] 21 April 1999, n. pag. Web. 2 May. 2012. <http://articles.latimes.com/1999/apr/21/news/mn-29537>.