A bit more Helen Andersen history

fanny&baby-helen Danica has unearthed an original airbrush painting Helen did (right) and I’m glad we have it. The work isn’t anything special aesthetically but the title on the back reveals Helen’s wish to justify the aboriginal motifs that she used so frequently in her paintings.
Perhaps “justify” is the wrong word. I don’t think Helen ever had any qualms about borrowing art ideas from others, but the title suggests to me that she may have wanted to explain her personal history with native art. That’s Helen as a baby, in the arms of her mother Fanny.
As you see, Fanny has dressed her daughter in native clothing and beadwork. Helen’s father was a prairie doctor. Many of his patients were Plains aboriginal people and they seem to have paid their medical bills in kind. Dr. Anderson was a great admirer of the aboriginal arts and amassed what Helen records as “the largest privately owned [Canadian] Indian [art] collection in the world”. (Written in her photo album)
Helen was much influenced by her father, who was a painter himself. She followed his example in pursuing art and she went into nursing, reflecting his medical career.
The photo (left) comes from the Manitoba Archives. Helen wrote away for photos, apparently to document the existence of her father’s art collection. She received quite a few and I will scan them for inclusion in the Documents section of her web archives.