Colette Pope Heldner

Swamp Idyl, Early 20th Century
Oil Paint
22 x 40 in

Colette Pope Heldner and her husband Knute Heldner were legendary New Orleans painters, most known for painting swamp scenes of south Louisiana. Their bright colors and loose Expressionist brush strokes distinguish their paintings; there's a strong similarity between them. This painting is ultra-typical of Colette's -- and as so many of them, is titled "Swamp Idyl" (sic). It features a swamp shack, Cajuns in pirogues and mossy oaks, all iconic in south Louisiana. The Heldners are a household name among Louisiana art collectors and lovers of New Orleans. With frame, 22" x 40". Without, 18" x 36". 

The following information was submitted to AskArt in June of 2006 by Cornelia C. Moynihan of Moynihan Fine Art: Colette Pope Heldner (1902-1990) was married to the noted Swedish-born artist Knute Heldner (1877-1952). He had been established in Duluth, Minnesota, before they settled in New Orleans in 1923, residing on St Peters Street in the French Quarter (Vieux Carre). She was known for her Impressionist style, painting scenes of the city's picturesque courtyards and favorite haunts of the local artists and musicians, plus darker atmospheric landscapes of the surrounding countryside, sometimes with figures included but not predominant. A number of her works bore the title "Swamp Idyl - Louisiana Bayou Country" but were varied in content, some with a small dwelling or boat or dock, others composed only of cypress trees in the waters of a bayou. These are not numbered or dated. Besides her full three-name signature, some early works were signed only "by Colette". Colette Pope Heldner has received renewed critical acclaim in recent years, in such retrospective exhibitions as "In a New Light: America's Brush with Impressionism", held March through May 2005 at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia, -- where her work was included with that of about thirty luminaries such as Wm J Glackens, Wm Merritt Chase, and Ernest Lawson. A number of public and private collections own works of hers, including the LSU Museum of Art, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Mr. and Mrs. Amon Carter Evans Collection in Columbia, Tennessee, and others.

Colette Pope Heldner

Colette Pope Heldner (maiden name Dorothy Colette Pope) was born in Waupaca, Wisconsin on May 18, 1902, and raised in Duluth, Minnesota. Heldner studied at the Rachel McFadden Art Studio in Duluth and married her instructor, the noted artist Knute Heldner. Her husband’s impressionist style and their trip to Europe was very influential on the change to Colette’s style. They moved to New Orleans and returned to Duluth for the summer, painting both Louisiana and Minnesota throughout their careers.

Colette was known for her French Quarter scenes as well as her Swamp Idyl paintings which proved to be financially successful for her. Colette innovated traditional French Quarter scenes through the replacing a brown tonality with bright colors and distortions on realistic form. The Heldner’s were less concerned with precision of elements, instead repeating stock elements such as cypress trees, shacks with porches, docks, moss, and fishermen. Many of her works include a dark, atmospheric quality. For decades Colette Heldner produced paintings for residents and tourists, which brought her much recognition. After her husband’s death in 1952, her paintings became more expressive with looser brushstrokes and bolder colors. She worked to meet the demand for her “swamp Idylls” paintings. Towards the end of her life, Heldner acquired many imitators in New Orleans.

Colette Pope Heldner received critical acclaim for a recent retrospective called “In a New Light; America’s Brush with Impressionism,” which was exhibited at the Morris Museum of Art. Her work was included in the exhibit along with some American masters such as William Merritt Chase and Ernest Lawson. Her paintings can be found in several private and public collections including the LSU Museum of Art and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.