Some of the most exquisite figurative paintings in The Michael Aaron Gallagher Fine Art Collection, were composed by Danish artist Helge Helme.
Born in Roskilde, Denmark in 1894, Axel Henry Helge Helme produced an impressive body of work throughout his career as a painter, until his death in 1987.
According to AskArt, he studied at the Academy in Copenhagen. Kunstindeks Danmark and Weilbachs Kunstnerleksikon (both of which provide information to the public about Danish artists) mention that around the year 1929, he taught painting classes on Sundays and well-known abstract artist Richard Mortensen attended.
Helme’s work is showcased in The Collection along with two of his European contemporaries, Talwinski and Ehlinger. Where Polish artist Igor Talwinski (1907-1983) excelled with the pallette knife, producing delicate figurative oil paintings of ballerinas and young women in the same vein, Helme’s realistic lighting, balance of earthtones, lifelike flesh-tones and work with the brush more closely resembles that of another of his peers, French artist Maurice Ehlinger (1896-1981).
As the only two works by a Danish artist in The Collection, both of the paintings by Helge Helme complement each other in size and style. Both feature the same model, painted around the same period. And both are understated with a subtle presentation of youthful beauty and innocence.
In the first work, which was acquired from Fontaine’s Auction Gallery in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Helme depicts a young woman who has fallen asleep while reading a book in bed. The peacefulness of the moment is masterfully conveyed through the soft lighting and restful pose of the subject.
What is particularly exceptional about the second work, painted in 1935 and acquired from the respected Scandanavian auction house Bruun Rasmussen in Copenhagen, Denmark, is the illusion of ornate detail in the furniture and the delicate fabric that covers the model. From afar, the painting appears elegant with fine decor and and an exotic textile and yet, upon close inspection, the brushwork is loose and less exacting.
In neither of the paintings is the subject gazing at the viewer, which is an effective way for Helme to convey the feeling of privacy in these intimate moments in time. The influence of his many trips to France, where both Talwinski and Ehlinger lived and worked, can be seen in his style of portraiture.
An elegant example of 20th Century Scandanavian art, Helge Helme is an artist whose work continues to appreciate in value and prestige. In recent auctions, his paintings have sold for as much as 150% above auction estimates.