Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Helck Recalls the Famous Artists Course

The grandson of American illustrator Peter Helck (1893-1988) has published his grandfather's memoirs online. Helck was a founding member of the Famous Artists Course Lessons, and he recalls the formation of the school and his role in it:

"In 1948 that remarkably successful illustrator, AIbert Dorne, created the home study institution known as the Famous Artists School. It was flattering to be among the dozen chosen to be founding faculty members. Dorne and Fred Ludekens prepared the Basic Course, a 24 lesson textbook, intelligently organized and beautifully printed, which remains the foundation of the enterprise. For the Advanced Course the twelve of us wrote our own books of instruction, each designed to attract students believed to have personal interest in our particular and singular working methods. The best part of a year was given to writing and illustrating my course."

"The published courses won wide acclaim for their layout and typography quite aside from their merit as means of instruction. Enrollments in the Basic Course were immediately forthcoming on a level with Dorne's anticipation. However that brilliant fellow's judgment as to similar appeal for the Advanced Courses had been overly optimistic. Only Norman Rockwell and Al Parker had great numbers of starry-eyed student admirers. The egos of the rest of us were somewhat deflated by the modest enrollments for our Courses."

"For four or five years I corrected the work of my students. As this meant graphically-demonstrated means by which their works could be improved plus typed analysis and criticism, teaching via correspondence was time-consuming, on occasion six or seven hours on a single assignment, but also very enjoyable. In time the Advanced Course was merged with the Basic and the later Painting Course."

"At the time of the school's founding, teaching art by mail was viewed by many as suspect, and with cause. One nationally known school had not revised its course for 27 years. When our Basic Course Lesson No. 16 brought drop-outs and other evidence of fading student interest, Dorne concluded that this lesson, not the students, was the cause. No. 16 and others later were reorganized for improved clarity."

"Our humble beginning in a little cottage on Boston Post Road has become an institution having about 115,000 students in art, writing and photography. The School's instruction fostered the traditional art fundamentals: sound drawing, perspective, representations as offered by nature, most of which is scorned by the avant-garde."

"My personal work for exhibitions continued traditional and was thus recognized by one of the few remaining art bodies unaffected by the radical movements, the National Academy, to which I was elected in 1950. At the present there is slowly emerging a return to recognizable subject matter in painting. The astounding success of realist and traditionalist Andrew Wyeth may be viewed as significant."
Online resources:


rotm81 said...

Is there a context/description of the falling train painting?

Warren JB said...

Interesting insights just in these excerpts. Thanks James! I'll bookmark the rest.