A Pioneering Female Artist Painted These Zen Landscapes

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Seascape by Helen Lundeberg, 1962. Photo: ©The Feitelson / Lundeberg Art Foundation

The late painter Helen Lundeberg planned to become a writer until a class with artist Lorser Feitelson changed her mind. Feitelson saw great potential in Lundeberg, encouraged her to pursue art, and helped her show her first piece, “Apple Harvest,” at a gallery in San Diego. The two developed a close relationship through art and later married. In 1934, they founded the Post-Surrealist art movement in Southern California, pairing realistic elements with fantastical elements — like painting real people in dreamlike landscapes.

Unlike her European contemporaries who used dreamy imagery, Lundeberg’s Post-Surrealist works portrayed carefully planned, concrete subjects. In the 1960s, the art form led her to explore geometric abstraction in landscapes, still lifes, and interiors. Her work during that time helped pioneer California hard-edge painting, a technique that uses abrupt transitions between the colors. It became one of the most distinct American abstract-painting styles of the decade.

The exhibit “Helen Lundeberg: Classic Attitude,” on view at Cristin Tierney Gallery in New York until December 17, showcases the painter’s groundbreaking hard-edged works from the early ’60s. Considered to be her finest and most distinguished body of work, the paintings vary in subject matter — like paintings of architecture and nature — while sharing balanced composition and Zen-like subtleties of color. Click ahead to preview the exhibit.

Photo: Etienne Frossard

Installation view: “Helen Lundeberg: Classic Attitude,” 2016. Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York. 

Photo: Etienne Frossard

Installation view: “Helen Lundeberg: Classic Attitude,” 2016. Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York. 

Helen Lundeberg, Desert Road, 1960. Oil on canvas. 50 x 40 inches (127 x 101.6 cm).  Courtesy Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York. 

Helen Lundeberg, Seascape, 1962. Oil on canvas. 60 x 50 inches (152.4 x 127 cm). Courtesy Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York. 

Helen Lundeberg, By the Sea II, 1962. Oil on canvas. 50 x 50 inches (127 x 127 cm).  Courtesy Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York. 

Helen Lundeberg, Arches 5, 1962. Oil on canvas. 48 x 91 inches (121.9 x 231.1 cm).  Courtesy Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York. 

Helen Lundeberg, Water Map, 1963. Acrylic on canvas. 60 x 60 inches (152.4 x 152.4 cm). Courtesy Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York. 

Helen Lundeberg, Untitled, 1959. Oil on canvas. 50 x 40 inches (127 x 101.6 cm). Courtesy Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York. 

A Pioneering Female Artist Painted These Zen Landscapes