Helmi Juvonen


block print 9x12

Born in 1903 into an artistic family in Butte, Montana, Helmi Juvonen grew up in Seattle and remained in Washington until her death in 1985.

Helmi is noted for her ardent interest in Native American culture. Her sincerity gained her acceptance into tribal ceremonies and sacred rituals, and she was permitted to observe the spirit dances which became the subject of many of her paintings. She also studied tribal art by attending the Northwest Coast exhibits at the Washington State Museum. 

Formal art training came from the Cornish Art Institute, to which she had received two scholarships. In the 1940s she studied lithography and began making linoleum cut prints. Following a brief employment at Boeing during World War II, when she prepared mechanical drawings, Helmi entered her most prolific period. Numerous prints and sketches were produced in the 1950s but later in the decade she suffered a mental collapse and was hospitalized. In 1960 she entered a convalescent hospital and lived there the rest of her life. In her final years, she resumed painting and did many felt-tip drawings of dolls.

Helmi's intellect, wit and whimsy endeared her to many. Among her many friends was Mark Tobey, who ultimately became her obsession. She accompanied Tobey and Pehr Hallsten to Bahai weekly meetings, and her idolatry of him led her to place his likeness, discernible or undisguised, in many of her paintings. Indulging her dream, she even prepared a wedding invitation for her hoped-for marriage to Mark Tobey.

The first one-artist show of Helmi's works was held at the Pacific Northwest Arts Center (Seattle Art Museum) in 1975, and the first major retrospective was presented by the Frye Museum in 1976. A joint retrospective by the State Capital Museum and Evergreen State College was held in Olympia in 1984. Her works can be seen at the Seattle Art Museum, the Henry Gallery, and the Washington State Capital Museum and are part of many private collections.