Hooves. 1927. Woodcut. 7 1/2 x 12 (sheet 11 7/8 x 15 1/8). Printed on heavy Japanese mulberry paper. Signed, dated and titled in pencil.
Helen West Heller was born near Rushville, Illinois. From 1876 she lived in Canton, Illinois. At a very young age, she became interested in painting. Although she received some art education at the School of Fine Arts in St. Louis and the Art Students League in New York, she was largely self-taught. As an adult she moved back and forth between Chicago and New York several times, before settling in New York for the last twenty-five years of her life. She worked in a distinctly individual style, and was intensely productive and unwaveringly committed to her artistic passions. In 1923, during a period of great poverty, she turned to the affordable materials of wood block and linoleum, often printing her results on wrapping paper. From then until the end of her life she produced more than six hundred woodcuts, and spent a great deal of time studying art and history, and writing. She was very active in artists’ social and political affairs, and in 1948 was elected an associate of the National Academy of Design. She often brings figures and settings together in a mosaic of patterns that reflect both Eastern and Western block print traditions.
John Taylor Arms described her as "A woman of high intellectual attainments, unusual emotional intensity, and keen sensitivity of feeling, she has been able to combine all these qualities in her work and by long years of self-discipline, training and practice has developed a technical mastery of her tools and her medium which gives her fluent expression of them.That spiritual quality, that affinity between the artist and the mood of the subject, which raises the level of a sound piece of craftsmanship or a bit of intellectual objectivity and endows it with the spirit of true art, is present in every one of Helen West Heller's woodcuts..." Woodcuts U.S.A. Oxford University Press, 1947.
She exhibited in a number of group shows throughout her career, including several in Europe: at the Hagenbund in Vienna, the Salon d'Automne in Paris, and Meatyard in London. She also had prints shown at a gallery called Derepas in Paris.