Helen Balfour Biography

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Known for her watercolor paintings of California scenery, Helen Johnston Balfour was born in London, England and emigrated to Milwaukee with her family in the early 1850s. She was educated there and at the Art Institute in Chicago where she married John Balfour in 1869. In 1909, the couple moved to California, living briefly in Northern California and then settling in Los Angeles at a studio home at 310 Mount Washington Drive.

She grew up in a cultured home with a mother who was an artist who had exhibited with the Royal Academy in London and then studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. Helen Balfour's early interest was singing, and she achieved modest fame in Chicago as a concert singer. In the 1890s, she turned to painting. In California, she traveled and painted extensively in California and as far as Alaska, where one of her subjects was a landscape titled "Hyder Alaska". Sometimes she painted with her well-known artist niece and husband, Marion and Elmer Wachtel.

Exhibition participation included the California Art Club, the San Francisco Art Association and the Laguna Beach Art Association. Her work is represented in the collection of the Society of California Pioneers.

Balfour died in Los Angeles on September 17, 1925.

Source: "An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West" by Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick
"Artists in California, 1786-1940" by Edan Hughes