Lot 514: Knute Heldner (Swedish/New Orleans)

Neal Auction Company

December 3, 2016, 10:00 AM CST
New Orleans, LA, US
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Description: Knute Heldner (Swedish/New Orleans, 1877-1952), "Sharecroppers", 1943, oil on canvas, signed lower right, signed, monogrammed, titled and dated on label en verso of frame, 31 in. x 25 in., original frame. Provenance: Sold in these rooms Oct. 6, 2007, lot 512. Note: Making his way from Verderslov, Sweden to New Orleans, Knute Heldner had many stops throughout his new country – Boston, Massachusetts, Duluth and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Washington, D.C. were just some of the cities visited by the artist before he arrived in New Orleans for the first time in the winter of 1923. After their stay in New Orleans, he and his wife, Colette, decided to make it their winter home, spending summers in Duluth. Throughout his travels, Heldner, a religious man by nature, held a variety of jobs including cabin boy, shepherd, woodland guide, dishwasher, and cook in a lumber camp. This variety in employment allowed Heldner to interact with diverse groups of people and experience their hardships. One of his main goals in painting was to attempt to reach people through his art and inspire a reaction connecting the adversity in everyday life with a sense of divine purpose. The idea of finding God through art is not an uncommon one and can be seen in a number of Heldner’s works, both religious and secular. The current lot, depicting a family in a mule-drawn cart, the mother nursing a young baby, calls to mind the Biblical story of the Flight to Egypt; framing the plight of the contemporary poor as a modern day Holy Family. Heldner’s lifelong passion for spirituality and social idealism are deeply felt through this empathetic portrait of a working class family.
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