Helen Bruton Biography

Helen Bruton

American

1898-1985

Biography

Helen Bell Bruton (1898-1985), printmaker and mosaic muralist, was born in Alameda, California on February 7, 1898. Helen had two older sisters, Margaret and Esther. Both were artists and they probably influenced Helen to follow their lead; she first studied art at the University of California at Berkeley. World War I interrupted studies and Helen and her sisters joined in the war effort by working at the Letterman Hospital in San Francisco. After the war, Helen moved to New York to attend the Art Students' League where she studied with sculptors Stirling Calder and Leo Lentelli. In 1925, Helen joined her sisters in Paris to study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. She later returned for another winter in New York to study with Boardman Robinson in his drawing class.

 

Helen's sisters went on a trip in 1929 to New Mexico where they sketched and painted and upon their return they mounted an exhibition of their work at the Beaux Arts Gallery in San Francisco. Helen stayed behind and went to Los Angeles to work in the drafting department of the Gladding McBean tile company where she was asked to design a series of portrait panels that could be produced in terra cotta. These panels of philosphers are now in the Mudd Memorial Library of the University of Southern California.

 

The following summer Helen and Esther spent time in the mountains above Saint Helena, California where they worked on etching and drawing. In 1933, Helen began working in mosaic; she and Margaret worked together on a mosaic project for the exterior panels for the Fleishacker Zoo Mother House in San Francisco. This project was under the auspices of the Federal Art Project.

 

Helen produced a limited number of etchings and block prints in her career. She joined the California Society of Etchers and the Progressive California Painters with whom she exhibited. Her work was also included in the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939. Helen died in Monterey, California on November 16, 1985.