This is an oil on canvas by the important American woman painter Helen Alton Sawyer (1900-1999). It is titled "Circus Girl" and is one of a series of paintings of circus subjects that she executed during the 1940's. She exhibited a number of these at Milch Gallery in New York City. Milch represented Sawyer from the late 1930's until the mid-1950's. She also showed a painting of the same woman titled "Dolores in Blue Costume" at the National Academy of Design Spring Annual in March of 1949. The work we are offering, "Circus Girl" was offered through Milch Gallery in its original frame which bears a Milch Gallery label that identifies the title. Sawyer was a strong modernist painter and was under contract with Milch at a point when they were one of the leading modernist galleries in New York City.
Helen Alton Sawyer began her art training at the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, New York. She went on to study at the National Academy of Design School in Manhattan. She was quickly recognized as a skilled and accomplished artist. By 1937 she was made an Associate member of the National Academy. She also was a member of the National Association of Women Artists, the Provincetown Art Association, the National Art Club, the Hudson Valley Art Association, the Audubon Artists, etc. She exhibited extensively: the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (from the 1920'through the 1940's); the Ringling Museum; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the National Academy of Design; the Corcoran Gallery; the Art Institute of Chicago (she won a prize in 1936); Milch Gallery; etc. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, the John Herron Art Institute, the Toledo Museum, the Indianapolis Museum, etc. In addition she received numerous commissions for paintings and murals for major businesses.
Condition of this painting is excellent. The frame has had some minor restoration to the corners but is in visually excellent shape.
Measurements are: painting, 16 inches x 13 inches; frame (outer dimensions), 23 1/4 inches x 20 1/4 inches.
Although many of Helen Sawyer's landscape and still life paintings come on the market very few of her early figural works are made available. These works are what established her reputation as a modernist and won her acceptance and recognition at a point in time when women artists struggled to gain acceptance and approval. This work is a fine and well documented example of the strongest work of a significant American woman artist.