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Helaine Blumenfeld

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Helaine Blumenfeld
Helaine M. Colton

1942 (1942)
New York City
AwardsHonorary OBE

Helaine Blumenfeld (born 1942) is an American sculptor particularly known for her large-scale public sculptures. She creates works primarily in marble and bronze but also in granite and other materials.[1][2] Examples of her work are in the collections of Clare College, Cambridge, the Courtauld Gallery and the Smithsonian.[3] Amongst her large-scale public works are Family in granite installed in Henry Reuss Federal Plaza in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Tempesta in marble at The Lancasters, London; and Fortuna in bronze at Canary Wharf, London.[3] A fellow and past vice president of the Royal British Society of Sculptors, Blumenfeld was awarded an Honorary OBE in 2011.[4][1] She lives in the United Kingdom and works there and in Pietrasanta, in Tuscany in central Italy.[5]

Life and career[edit]

Blumenfeld was born in New York City in 1942 and grew up in Jamaica Estates in the Borough of Queens. Her father was a builder. Her mother, a daughter of Russian émigrés, was a poet and painter.[6][7] She received her BA and MA from the University of Michigan and then went on to study for her PhD in political philosophy at Columbia University. After completing her doctoral dissertation, John Locke: A Science of Ethics, in 1964, she studied art in Paris at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière under the sculptor Ossip Zadkine.[8][5]. She held her first solo exhibition, a group of polished bronzes, in 1966 at the Palais Pálffy in Vienna.[9][2]

Blumenfeld had met her husband Yorick in a New York bookshop while she was researching her PhD. They married when she was 20 and had two sons.[6] Their elder son Remy, born in 1965, is a television producer. Their younger son Jared became an environmentalist and served as the EPA Administrator for California and the West under the Obama administration.[10] The Blumenfelds moved permanently to Europe in the late 1960s, eventually settling in the Cambridgeshire village of Grantchester in 1970 where Helaine also has her UK studio.[11]

A turning point in Blumenfeld's career came with her 1974 visit to Pietrasanta in Italy which eventually led her to add marble as one of her primary mediums. She had originally gone there to do bronze casting, but Alicia Penalba, another sculptor working in Pietrasanta, encouraged her to try sculpting in marble and introduced her to master carver Sem Ghelardini. Blumenfeld joined Ghelardini's Studio Sem and began learning stone-carving. At the time, she was the only woman working in the studio's marble yard. In the ensuing years she travelled back and forth from her Grantchester home to Pietrasanta to continue her work with Ghelardini. It was also in Pietrasanta during the 1970s that she met Henry Moore for the first time. He had come to the town to supervise two large-scale sculptures that Ghelardini was carving for him. In 1985 she had a joint exhibition with Moore entitled A British Dialogue: From Perry Green to Cambridge at New York's Alex Rosenberg Gallery. Twelve of her large-scale sculptures in marble and travertine were shown.[12][13][14]

By 2013 Blumenfeld's oeuvre had encompassed over 65 commissioned works for public spaces and private collections. The later years of her career have seen several major retrospective exhibitions of her work including those at the Royal British Society of Sculptors (2008),[15] Pietrasanta in the Piazza del Duomo and Chiesa di Sant'Agostino (2011),[16] Salisbury Cathedral (2013),[17] and Bowman Sculpture in London (2015). The London exhibition, entitled Helaine Blumenfeld – Henry Moore A Dialogue 1985–2015, marked the 30th anniversary of her first exhibit with Henry Moore.[18] Hard Beauty, a documentary film on her life and work, was broadcast on Sky Arts in April 2018.[19]


Blumenfeld was elected a fellow of the Royal British Society of Sculptors in 2000 and from 2004 to 2009 served as the society's vice-president.[4] In 2007 she became the first female recipient of the Premio Pietrasanta nel Mondo. She received an honorary OBE in 2011.[5][1]



  1. ^ a b c Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (July 15, 2011). "Internationally renowned sculptor receives honour". Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  2. ^ a b The Fitzwilliam Museum (2008). "As seen by Helaine Blumenfeld". Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Lacey, Hester (July 7, 2018). "The Inventory: Q&A with sculptor Helaine Blumenfeld". Financial Times. Retrieved September 6, 2018 (subscription required).
  4. ^ a b Royal British Society of Sculptors (2018). "Helaine Blumenfeld FRSS". Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Wright.Karen (June 9, 2012). "Helaine Blumenfeld: 'Art is a commitment to risk, a reflection of life – nothing stays the same'". The Independent. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Milner, Catherine (May 12, 2010). "Taking Risks". Country Life, pp. 108–109. Retrieved via September 6, 2018.
  7. ^ Watts, Michael (April 2017). "Lit from Within". Christie's Magazine, pp. 72–81. Retrieved via Newport News Public Art Foundation September 7, 2018.
  8. ^ Seyler, William C. (September 1965). "II. Dissertations Completed Since the Last Listing". The American Political Science Review, Vol. 59, No. 3, p. 784. Retrieved via JSTOR September 6, 2018 (subscription required).
  9. ^ Cass Sculpture Foundation. "Helaine Blumenfeld: Biography". Cass Sculpture Foundation. Archived version of August 25, 2011. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  10. ^ Krasny, Michael (2016). "Jared Blumenfeld Reflects on Six Years as EPA Chief for California and the West". KQED News. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  11. ^ Cumming, Ed (September 19, 2016). "A sculptor's space: inside the home of Helaine Blumenfeld". The Observer. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  12. ^ Flynn, Tom (May 22, 2015). Blumenfeld and Moore – a new dialogue. Wall Street International. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  13. ^ Nandha, Tina (August 4, 2018). "Flashback". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  14. ^ Anderson, Susan Heller and Dunlap, David W. (February 16, 1985). "Weight of the Art World". The New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  15. ^ Jolley, Ben (July 23, 2018). "Exhibition of works by artist and contemporary sculptor Helaine Blumenfeld at Ely Cathedral". Ely Standard. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  16. ^ Marin, Sergiu (September 2, 2011). "A Pietrasanta la scultura è donna con le opere di Helaine Blumenfeld". Lo Schermo. Retrieved September 7, 2018 (in Italian).
  17. ^ Hounsell-Robert, Katy (June 14, 2013). "Outward signs of inner light". Church Times. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  18. ^ s.n. (February 4, 2015). "Henry Moore and Blumenfeld seminal works to go on show". BBC News. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  19. ^ Edwards, Rupert (April 17, 2018). "Helaine Blumenfeld: Britain's most successful sculptor you've never heard of". The Arts Desk. Retrieved September 7, 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Lucie-Smith, Edward (1982). The Sculpture of Helaine Blumenfeld . Sinclair-Browne. ISBN 086300024X
  • Upson, Nicola (1998). Mythologies: The Sculpture of Helaine Blumenfeld. The Overlook Press. ISBN 0879519118

External links[edit]

  • Official website
  • Ryan, Alice (July 2018). "Art & Soul". Velvet Magazine, pp. 14–17 (biography and interview)
  • Bowman Sculpture has copies of the catalogs for several of Blumenfeld's exhibitions at the gallery from 2008 to 2015, including Helaine Blumenfeld – Henry Moore A Dialogue 1985–2015
  • Hignell Gallery, Blumenfeld's representative since 2016, has multiple photographs of her sculptures

Media related to Helaine Blumenfeld at Wikimedia Commons