Helen Matteson

Helen Dwyer Matteson was born May 25th, 1925 in Chicago. She received her undergraduate degree in History from the University of Rochester in 1946, where she studied music and piano as well. The following year she moved to New York City and enrolled at the National Academy of Design under the instruction of Robert Philipp. She later studied under Edwin Dickinson at the Art Student League from 1950 to 1952. Helen began taking drawing classes at the Greenwich House, where she met Ira in 1950. They were married in 1952.

Helen lived and worked in Rome with Ira while he was at the American Academy from 1953 to 1955. She had her own studio space and was able to continue working on her drawings and watercolors.

Back in New York City, she gave birth to her daughter Abigail in 1958. They moved back to Italy for two years in 1964, then returned to Brooklyn Heights until Ira began teaching at Kent State in 1968. Helen spent her time painting and drawing, reading, and listening to music. She frequented the museums of New York City, exposing herself to the works of Mark Rothko and early Frank Stella. Ira and Helen spoke only occasionally about their art, but often discussed others’ work and occasionally shared media. Helen tended to work in her own studio space.

Her first show was the 1976 “Contemporary Images in Watercolor” exhibit at the Akron Art Museum. Later that year, she participated in the May Show of the Cleveland Museum of Art. In March of 1978, Helen exhibited watercolors at the Massillon Museum in Massillon, Ohio. In 1982, she was one of three women featured in “Three Artists, Three Media” at the Canton Art Institute in Canton, Ohio. Later that year, the Akron Art Museum organized a three-month solo exhibit to showcase her work.

Helen continued to paint and draw in Thetford, rarely missing a day from 1994 until her death in 2011. She produced over 400 complete sketchbooks, and thousands of other paintings and drawings, all of which are undated and unsigned by the artist. Helen’s geometric and minimalist forms, imbued with a strong color palette, result from an unrelenting commitment to her artistic practice.