Flower Study

Helena de Kay

Not on view

Helena de Kay is better known for her role as a cultural tastemaker in the late 19th-century New York art world than for her paintings. These rare survivors of her artistic practice as a student at the National Academy of Design, in the 1870s, and possibly earlier, reveal much about training for women at the time. The nude study in the paint box dates the work to 1871, the year when life classes were first open to women at the Academy. The floral studies suggest the influence of Winslow Homer and John La Farge, with whom de Kay also worked privately in those years. A magnetic personality, de Kay (later Gilder) greatly enriched the progressive cultural landscape of late-19th-century New York through many contributions, including establishing the famous Friday salons at the Gilders’ home near Union Square, The Studio; organizing a Saturday-morning sketch club; and co-founding both the Art Students League and the Society of American Artists. Her leading presence was directly responsible for the large number of women involved in those organizations.

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