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The Pig Woman - A Southern Idyl, 1932
Knute Heldner (1875-1952)

View Artist Bio
Oil on canvas
42 x 40 1/2 inches
Signature Details: Signed lower right
Status: Private Collection, New Orleans, Louisiana

After leading a rather colorful life in his native Sweden and in the American Midwest, Knute Heldner settled permanently in New Orleans in 1923.  Once there he became something of a fixture in bohemian French Quarter life, creating numerous swamp paintings in his signature cool palette.


While these works capture something of the mystery of the bayou country, they are, by and large, formulaic representations which vary only in size and quantities of pirogues, shacks, and towering, moss-hung live oaks and cypress.  His efforts at social realism, however, are in an altogether different style.


In the mid-1920s Heldner began to create works with an agenda of social concern characteristic of the American Scene Movement. Intended for a more select market than the tourist trade which bought his landscapes in the Vieux Carre, these "toil and the soil" pictures have a far more sensitive tone, one which recreates the hardships while revealing the innate nobility of the farm worker and the field hand.


The Pig Woman--A Southern Idol is in the same vein as another well-known work focusing upon a Southern black woman, Heldner's series of black madonnas.  Departing from the tradition of Southern painters like William Aiken Walker and George Henry Clements, Heldner has chosen to present this black woman as a fully realized human being, not a hopeless caricature presented in styled costume. Estill Curtis Pennington

This essay is copyrighted by Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc. and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission.


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