Colette Pope Heldner (née Dorothy Colette Pope) is one of the most celebrated Louisiana Impressionists. She was raised in Duluth, Minnesota, and received her art training at Rachel McFadden Art Studio in Duluth. While there, she met and married instructor and fellow artist Knute Heldner. The two of them divided their time between Duluth and New Orleans, where they lived in the French Quarter. The pair of them produced atmospheric scenes of both locations, which highlight the differences between the rolling Minnesota hills and the murky Louisiana swamps. Colette Pope Heldner’s style evolved throughout her artistic career from the sunny impressionism of her early works to the broader, more expressionist character of her later works. An acute businessperson as well as talented painter, Heldner made a thriving living from selling her iconic “Swamp Idyll” paintings to tourists in New Orleans.
Along with her “Swamp Idyll” paintings, Pope Heldner is well known for her scenes of the French Quarter. Mardi Gras Day, New Orleans represents some of her finest work in this genre. This painting, executed in 1927, provides an exciting view of the Mardi Gras festival, full of dynamic costumed figures dancing, chatting, and selling balloons. The revelers gather under the arches of the Cabildo, New Orleans’ historic Spanish colonial city hall, clearly depicted from Pope Heldner’s observations. The deep shadows under the arches and loose, purposeful brushstrokes used to evoke the contrasts of light and dark provide a glimpse of the moody, gloomy atmosphere that pervades her later works. However, the bright activity of the painting prevents the piece from sliding into melancholy, maintaining the festive quality of the scene as the viewer approaches the party.
Mardi Gras Day, New Orleans is available in Important Modern, Post-War, and Contemporary Art, March 25, 2020, 4 PM CST.
Please contact Revere Auctions if you have a work by Colette Pope Heldner you are interested in selling or having appraised.