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Helen Torr

Born: 1886, Roxbury, Pennsylvania, United States of America
Died: 1967, Bayshore, Long Island, New York, United States of America

Purple and Green Leaves
1927

Oil on copper mounted on board
Image: 20 1/4 x 15 1/4 in. (51.4 x 38.7 cm)
Frame: 26 1/4 x 21 1/8 x 1 3/8 in. (66.7 x 53.7 x 3.5 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.142
Signed: Unsigned
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

In Purple and Green Leaves, Helen Torr explored the abstract image produced by an arrangement of layered leaves and the negative space surrounding their pointed and curved forms. Glowing green and deep purple tints give these ordinary objects a mystical resonance enhanced by the faceted “rays,” reminiscent of stained-glass, that extend down from the apex of the pointed arch framing the composition. The suggestion of a shallow recess in which the leaves are arranged recalls the illusionistic architectural spaces that serve as settings for objects in many traditional European and American still life paintings.

Purple and Green Leaves most likely belongs to a group of paintings that Torr showed in an exhibition of women artists organized by Georgia O'Keeffe at New York's Opportunity Gallery in 1927. During that productive year Torr created many of her finest works. She made several paintings on metal supports, such as the copper sheet of Purple and Green Leaves, in 1926 and 1927. The modest dimensions of Torr’s paintings may reflect the cramped interior space of the small houseboat she shared with her husband, modernist artist Arthur Dove, between 1922 and 1933. Working alongside Dove, Torr was similarly drawn to nature as a source of inspiration and a springboard to artistic experimentation. While Dove’s images embraced the totality of the landscape, however, Torr focused on individual objects. On walks she recorded in her diaries, she collected flowers, shells, and feathers as well as leaves and brought them back to the studio to paint or draw close up. Purple and Green Leaves expresses Torr’s very personal engagement with nature and demonstrates her intuitive approach to art-making.

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Provenance

The artist
Private collection
John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, California
Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., New York, New York
Daniel J. Terra Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1984
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1999

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Exhibition History

Group Exhibition, Opportunity Gallery, New York, New York, December 16, 1927–January 12, 1928.

Dove-Torr Exhibition, An American Place, New York, New York, 1933.

Helen Torr, Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, New York (organizer). Venues: Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, New York, June 3–July 9, 1972; Graham Gallery, New York, New York, July 17–August 18, 1972. [exh. cat.]

Helen Torr, Graham Gallery, New York, New York (organizer). Venue: Graham Gallery, New York, New York, March 25–May 17, 1980. [exh. cat.]

A Proud Heritage: Two Centuries of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 21–June 21, 1987. [exh. cat.]

Collection Cameo, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 1997.

Collection Cameo companion piece, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, May 1999.

L'Amérique et les modernes, 1900–1950 (American Moderns, 1900–1950), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, July 25–October 31, 2000. [exh. cat.]

Selections from the Permanent Collection: Two Centuries of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, March 10–July 1, 2001.

Selections from the Permanent Collection: American Moderns, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, July 14–October 7, 2001.

(Re)Presenting Women, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, October 16, 2001–January 13, 2002.

Out of the Shadows: Helen Torr, A Retrospective, Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, New York (organizer). Venues: Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, New York, February 1–April 13, 2003; James Graham & Sons, New York, New York, April 24–June 8, 2003; Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, June 28–August 17, 2003; The Mitchell Gallery, St., John's College, Annapolis, Maryland, September 2–October 25, 2003. [exh. cat.]

American Classics, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, December 13, 2003–February 8, 2004.

A Narrative of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, February 13–October 31, 2004 (on exhibit partial run: February 13–April 15, 2004).

Expanded Galleries of American Art with Loans from the Terra Foundation for American Art Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, April 15, 2005–February, 2016. O'Keeffe, Stettheimer, Torr, Zorach: Women Modernists in New York, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida (organizer). Venues: Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida, February 18–May 15, 2016; Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine, June 23–September 18, 2016. [exh. cat.]

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Published References

Torr, Helen. Helen Torr and Arthur Dove’s Diary. Entries: Friday February 25, 1927 & Tuesday March 1, 1927. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

Leff, Sandra. Helen Torr, 1886–1967: In Private Life, Mrs. Arthur Dove. (exh. cat., Graham Gallery). New York: Graham Gallery, 1980. Cat. no. 6, p. 9.

American Paintings III 1985. New York: Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., 1985. Ill. p. 108 (black & white).

Atkinson, D. Scott et al. A Proud Heritage: Two Centuries of American Art. Edited by Terry A. Neff. (exh. cat., Terra Museum of American Art). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1987. Pl. T-174, p. 283 (color).

Purple and Green Leaves, Helen Torr. Collection Cameo sheet, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 1997. Ill. (black & white).

Cartwright, Derrick R. and Paul J. Karlstrom. American Moderns, 1900–1950. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2000. Pl. 30, p. 58 (color).

Cartwright, Derrick R. and Paul J. Karlstrom. L'Amérique et les modernes, 1900–1950. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2000. Pl. 30, p. 58 (color).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. An American Point of View: The Daniel J. Terra Collection. Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Text pp. 160, 205; ill. pp. 161 (color), 205 (black & white).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. Un regard transatlantique. La collection d'art américain de Daniel J. Terra. Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2002. Text pp. 160, 205; ill. pp. 161 (color), 205 (black & white).

Kennedy, Elizabeth. "The Terra Museum of American Art." American Art Review (December 2002): 126–41. Text p. 139.

Out of the Shadows: Helen Torr, A Retrospective. (exh. cat., Heckscher Museum of Art). Huntington, New York: Heckscher Museum of Art, 2003. Text pp. 16, 17, 51 (checklist); fig. 12, p. 16 (color).

Roberts, Ellen E. O’Keeffe, Stettheimer, Torr, Zorach: Women Modernists in New York. With the assistance of Samantha Niederman. (exh. cat., Norton Museum of Art). West Palm Beach, FL: Norton Museum of Art, 2016. Text pp. 90, 92, 149 (cat. no. 38). Ill. p. 91, fig. 8 (color).

Deits, Katie. “Thoroughly Modern.” Palm Beach Florida Weekly (April 7, 2016). Accessed March 29, 2017. http://palmbeach.floridaweekly.com/news/2016-04-07/Arts_(and)_Entertainment_News/THOROUGHLY_MODERN.html.

Kany, Daniel. "Art review: ‘Women Modernists’ in Portland is mostly about exciting art." Portland Press Herald (July 31, 2016). Accessed March 29, 2017. http://www.pressherald.com/2016/07/31/art-review-women-modernists-in-portland-mostly-about-exciting-art.

Dobrzynski, Judith H. “‘O’Keeffe, Stettheimer, Torr, Zorach: Women Modernists in New York’ Review.” The Wall Street Journal (August 24, 2016). Accessed March 29, 2017. https://www.wsj.com/articles/okeeffe-stettheimer-torr-zorach-women-modernists-in-new-york-review-1472073035.

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