Five Women Artists in the Collection: Helen A. Loggie

Helen A. Loggie; Hemlock Forest, ca. 1955; Etching. Whatcom Museum no. 1976.8.1

The Whatcom Museum is featuring five women artists from its collection throughout the month of March—Women’s History Month—in conjunction with the #5WomenArtists campaign, organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. This is the final week to celebrate and we highlight Helen A. Loggie, whose work was last exhibited in the Whatcom Museum’s 2016 show, Just Women, as well as in the 2010 exhibition Show of Hands: Northwest Women Artists, 1880-2010.

Helen A. Loggie (1895–1976) was best known for her etchings depicting the Pacific Northwest landscape of the early- to mid-twentieth century, and particularly the trees that occupied her immediate surroundings. Loggie’s family settled in Bellingham the year she was born to operate a lumber mill at the mouth of Whatcom Creek. Surrounded by the lumber industry and the colossal forests of the Washington Coast, trees became central to Loggie in her later work, but her initial interests in art centered on portraiture.

Portrait of Helen A. Loggie, 1913. Whatcom Museum no. 1995.0010.000013.

In 1916 she moved to New York City to study at the Art Students League where she took her first formal courses in drawing and painting, and where she learned the etching process that would later become the basis of her life’s work. Travels and interest in Renaissance art took her to Europe numerous times throughout the 1920s where she sketched bustling city scenes with a focus on capturing the complex architectural details. But the Pacific Northwest called her home, and it was back to Bellingham where she settled in 1927 and found what she called “a clarity of vision” within the landscape and culture of her childhood.

Her practice was to draw outdoors from nature during the spring and summer months, on Orcas Island, where she spent most summers, or in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Using her drawings as her source imagery, she worked on her etchings during the fall and winter months in her studio in Bellingham, though it was not uncommon for her to draw in nature even in the coldest months. Many of her images are of specific places and even specific trees, which she infused with anthropomorphic qualities. For instance, a gnarled and twisted juniper tree she often depicted, which was located on a small island off the coast of her Orcas Island home, was called “King Goblin.” A version of Goblin resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Hemlock Forest was one of the last etchings that Loggie completed before her death and took three to five years to complete. The dense, overall composition and areas of beautifully scribbled, calligraphic marks and vertical texture make it one of the more abstract works of all her etchings and conveys a certain spiritual quality. As in this and many other works, Loggie’s trees are both intimate portraits and elaborate cathedrals of the natural world.

-Compiled and written by Amy Chaloupka, Curator of Art