Helen Saunders

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Helen Saunders
Born4 April 1885
Bedford Park, Ealing, London
Died1 January 1963(1963-01-01) (aged 77)
Holborn, London
Known forPainting

Helen Saunders (4 April 1885 – 1 January 1963) was an English painter associated with the Vorticist movement.

Early life[edit]

Helen Saunders was born in Bedford Park, Ealing, London.[1] She studied at the Slade School of Art from 1906 to 1907, and later at the Central School of Arts and Crafts.


Abstract Multicoloured Design, 1915, Tate Gallery.

Saunders exhibited in the Twentieth Century Art exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1914, one of the first British artists to point in a nonfigurative style. In 1915 she became associated with the Vorticists, signing their manifesto in the first edition of the literary magazine BLAST and contributing to their inaugural exhibition. She and Jessica Dismorr were the only female members. Saunders was fluent in both French and German and during World War I worked in the office of the United Kingdom Government Censor.[2]

Later career[edit]

Saunders exhibited with the London Group in 1916, but from 1920 she increasingly turned away from the avant-garde and adopted a more realist style, working in still life, landscapes and portraiture, and latterly exhibiting with the Holborn Art Society.

Peppin discovered a great deal of previously unknown information about Saunders' life and work. Despite her long career, however, fewer than 200 of her works are currently known. She was included in the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University when it hosted an exhibition entitled The Vorticists: Rebel Artists in London and New York, 1914-18 from 30 September 2010 through 2 January 2011.[3]

Her 1996 biography by Brigid Peppin [4] includes a foreword by Richard Cork who states that:

"Since Saunders' early work earned her a respected place in experimental circles, the gathering obscurity of her later years seems cruel. She endured the neglect with uncomplaining stoicism, for her innate warmth prevented her from succumbing to bitterness."


She died of accidental gas poisoning at her home in Holborn, London, on 1 January 1963. Later that year, her sister Ethel donated to the Tate Gallery three of her drawings from her vorticist period.

Notable works[edit]

  • Abstract Multicoloured Design, c.1915. Gouache, watercolour and graphite on paper. Tate.[1]
  • Monochrome Abstract Composition, c.1915. Ink, watercolour and graphite on paper. Tate.[2]

See also[edit]

References and sources[edit]

  1. ^ Peppin, Brigid. 'Helen Saunders, 1885-1963', Ashmolean Museum Oxford, 1996
  2. ^ Catherine Speck (2014). Beyond the Battlefield, Women Artists of Two World Wars. Reaktion Books. ISBN 978 178023 374 1.
  3. ^ Nasher Museum Retrieved 17 September 2010
  4. ^ Helen Saunders, 1885-1963, Brigid Peppin, Ashmolean Museum, 1996, ISBN 1-85444-087-X
  • Richard Cork, "Vorticists (act. 1914–1919)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 2 July 2007
  • Helen Saunders, Tate Gallery biography

External links[edit]