Nessa Cohen

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Nessa Cohen
Born Helen Nessa Cohen
December 11, 1884
New York, New York
Died 1976
Nationality American
Education Art Students League, Cooper Union and in Paris
Alma mater Barnard College
Known for Sculptor

Nessa Cohen, born Helen Nessa Cohen, (December 11, 1885 - December 1976) was an American sculptor, born in New York City.[1] She exhibited in the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art.

Early life[edit]

Nessa Cohen, Sunrise, bronze, exhibited at the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art

Helen Nessa Cohen was born on December 11, 1884 in New York City. Her parents were Pauline and Adolph Cohen, who was a lawyer born in Germany. Both of her parents were German and Russian heritage. She had an older sister named Sadie.[2][3]


A graduate of Barnard College, Cohen studied sculpture with James Earle Fraser at the Art Students League and at the Cooper Union. She also studied with Despiau and Charles Malfray in Paris.[4]


Before 1913 the American Museum of Natural History provided monies to Cohen so that she and other artists could travel to the southwest to study individuals from six Native American tribes to capture their clothes and features. The resulting works included Sunrise. The sketches that she presented to the museum so that they could assess her skills before sending her to the southwest resulted in the Hopi Relay Runner.[5]

Cohen showed three pieces at the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art in New York, two plaster pieces Age and Portrait and the bronze Sunrise.[6]

Comment on New York Evening Sun art critics
The critics say that her work is as good as a man's, which is a way critics have when they wish to pay a greatest compliment that a critic's phrasing can devise.
Laura R. Prieto[7]

Sunrise was also exhibited at the 1916 Annual American Exhibition in Chicago, as was the bronze The Velvet Cap, Joy and Card tray: Hospitality.[8]

She was a member of the National Sculpture Society and exhibited a piece, Moment Musicale in the society's 1923 show. Cohen was also a member of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, New York Architectural League and the Society of Independent Artists.[9]

She traveled to Italy and France.[10]


Cohen died in December, 1976.[3] She donated funds to the Art Students League of New York for the The Nessa Cohen Memorial Fund for art students' housing, education and travel expenses.[11][12]


  • Age, plaster[6]
  • Card tray: Hospitality[8]
  • Group of Indians of Southwestern United States, American Museum of Natural History.[9]
  • Joy[8]
  • Navajo Watching Women at Work[9]
  • Portrait, plaster[6]
  • Sunrise, bronze, Havana, Cuba[6][9]
  • The Velvet Cap[8]


  1. ^ American Jewish Committee; Jewish Publication Society of America. American Jewish year book. American Jewish Committee; 1922. p. 129.
  2. ^ Record for Helen N. Cohen. 1900 Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1120; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0879; FHL microfilm: 1241120. United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, 1854 rolls.
  3. ^ a b Record for Helen Cohen - born December 11, 1884 and died December 1976. Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.
  4. ^ Petteys, Chris, Dictionary of Women Artists, G K Hill & Co. publishers, 1985
  5. ^ I Prefer the Navajo Rug: Locating an American Primitive. The Museum of American Studies. University of Virginia. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d Brown, Milton W., ‘’The Story of the Armory Show’’, The Joseph H. Hirshhorn Foundation, 1963, p. 232
  7. ^ Laura R. Prieto. At Home in the Studio: The Professionalization of Women Artists in America. Harvard University Press; 2001. ISBN 978-0-674-00486-3. p. 198.
  8. ^ a b c d Art Institute of Chicago. Annual American Exhibition [of] Paintings and Sculpture. The Art Institute of Chicago. 1916.
  9. ^ a b c d National Sculpture Society, ‘’Exhibition of American Sculpture Catalogue’’, National Sculpture Society, NY 1923, pp. 258, 327
  10. ^ YIVO Archives. Guide to the YIVO Archives. M.E. Sharpe; 1998. ISBN 978-0-7656-0130-8. p. 56.
  11. ^ Art Students League (New York, N.Y.) The Art Students League. The League; 1978. p. 23.
  12. ^ Schoolhouse Partners LLC. Directory of Research Grants 2008. AuthorHouse; May 2008. ISBN 978-1-4343-4698-8. p. 87.