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Delaware Art Museum exhibit honors a benefactor’s artistic legacy

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STORY WRITTEN BY MONICA THOMPSON FRAGALE 
For Digital First Media

The Delaware Art Museum is now hosting the artwork of one of its greatest benefactors in a new exhibit running through Jan. 10.
“Helen Farr Sloan, 1911-2005” showcases her paintings, drawings and prints, many of which were donated to the museum after her death.
The exhibit, according to a press release, “honors Helen Farr Sloan’s legacy as an artist, philanthropist, and resource for generations of scholars and showcases approximately 30 of her paintings, prints and drawings produced between 1925 and 1980.”
“It has been a decade since Helen died, and it seemed appropriate to honor her legacy as one of the Museum’s greatest benefactors,” said Heather Campbell Coyle, the curator of American art for the Delaware Art Museum. “Since her death the Museum has received several gifts of her work and processed the work from her estate. This seemed a good way to celebrate our recent acquisitions of work by Helen Farr Sloan.”
Farr Sloan was an artist in the realist genre before she devoted herself to preserving her husband’s legacy of landscapes, portraits and more – a legacy that visitors to the Delaware Art Museum can see in their permanent collection and scholars can research in the John Sloan Manuscript Collection.
It was Farr Sloan’s role as an artist that Campbell Coyle hoped to showcase in the exhibit.
“Helen was this amazing philanthropist and steward of John Sloan’s legacy, but my goal was to highlight her work as an ambitious artist,” she said. “She made little work after Sloan’s death, but she was an interesting realist artist from the late 1920s through the 1940s.”

“59th Street, New York City,” c. 1930, by Helen Farr Sloan.

“59th Street, New York City,” c. 1930,
by Helen Farr Sloan.

Helen Farr Sloan looked around her for inspiration, often capturing those people and places she saw in every-day life. She was an art school student by age 16, and her work throughout her life included etchings and lithographs, the latter of which Campbell Coyle said more suited the artist’s drawing style.
The museum’s American art curator described Farr Sloan’s work as typical of modern realism.
“She was really interested in her subjects – city dwellers, speakeasy patrons, dancers – and her work is very engaged with their human interactions,” said Campbell Coyle. “The students of John Sloan and Robert Henri – Edward Hopper, Reginald Marsh, Isabel Bishop, Peggy Bacon – absorbed their instructors’ interest in everyday life and shaped the modern figurative art of the mid-20th century. Helen’s art should be understood in that context.”
Farr Sloan was also an art instructor at the Nightingale-Bamford School for Girls in New York City.
She first came to Delaware in the 1960s during summers, and she relocated permanently from New York City to Wilmington in 1989, according to a press release, describing, “Here she assisted scholars interested in Sloan and his circle, and helped to organize and annotate John Sloan’s papers.”
She donated more than 4,700 pieces of art to the museum and helped establish the manuscript collection named for her husband. The museum currently boasts the largest collection of John Sloan’s artwork, and the manuscript collection contains the artist’s letters, diaries, photographs, and also his personal library.
She also increased her involvement with the museum, participating in ceramic classes and visiting regularly.
Farr Sloan was given the Governor’s Award for the Arts in 1998 from then-Delaware Gov. Tom Carper. The award honors those who contribute to the arts in Delaware; Farr Sloan’s award honored her as a visual artist and as a patron of the arts, according to the Delaware State Division of the Arts.
There will be another show dedicated to Helen Farr Sloan in October by the Studio Group, which occupies the Howard Pyle studio on Franklin Street in Wilmington and serves to protect it as a community and artistic resource, according to a description of the group on its Web site, www.howardpylestudio.org.

IF YOU GO

What: “Helen Farr Sloan, 1911-2005”
When: Now through Jan. 10.
Where: Delaware Art Museum, 2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, DE
Hours: Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fridays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission: $12 for ages 19-59; $10 for ages 60-plus; $6 for students with valid ID and for youth ages 7-18; and free for children under 6. No admission fees on Thursdays after 4 p.m. or on Sundays.
Info.: Call (302) 571-9590 or check www.delart.org.

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