Helen King Boyer. American, 1919 - 2012

Artist Statement

Because of her illness Helen King Boyer said "she always felt as if she was Looking through a shaded window."

The Boyer Family: Mother-Daughter, Innovative Printmakers
Charles Marvin Fairchild Memorial Gallery
Georgetown University – March 10-August 3, 2012

Helen King Boyer (b. 1919) was bedridden during the first ten years of her life due to a failure of her lymphatic system at age four. Since she wasn't able to attend grade school her father, Ernest W. Boyer, read to her literary classics from Dickens, Shakespeare, Stevenson and Thackeray. She also entertained herself with coloring books and drawing materials, weaving, construction paper cut-outs, and by flipping through the pages of dance magazines from the early 1900s.

Helen Boyer's artistic training came not from the classroom but on personal observation and retentive memory. She spent hours closely studying the anatomy of her various toy figurines. As the daughter of etchers who had a printing press at home, she taught herself that process by age fifteen. A year later she had her first solo show at the Gulf Building in Pittsburgh.

Although she never formally enrolled in college, Helen Boyer took courses at Carnegie Tech and the University of Pittsburgh. Her professors included artists Samuel Rosenberg and Joseph Bailey Ellis. During the 1930s and early 1940s she and her mother experimented with anodized aluminum plates in Pittsburgh, working closely with Alcoa. During that time Helen Boyer also found work in the advertising department at the Pittsburgh Telegraph. In 1949, Helen Boyer received a Tiffany Foundation grant and moved to New York City with her mother, where she refined the new aluminum printmaking medium. She also found work as a designer of tie silks and stuffed toys. The Boyers would permanently relocate to Kansas City, Missouri in 1961, where both artists took classes at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and were active members in the Art Association of Greater Kansas City.

Georgetown University Library

Helen King Boyer, 92, passed peacefully away on August 6, 2012, while living at the Glennon Place Nursing Center, in Northeast Kansas City, MO. Helen was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania December 16, 1919, the daughter of Ernest Wilson and Louise Miller Boyer. She was bedridden during the first ten years of her life due to a failure of her lymphatic system at age four. During this period her father read to her literary classics and she also entertained herself with coloring books, creating paper cut-outs and browsing through dance magazines. She studied art at the University of Pittsburgh and at Carnegie Technical Institute. Her professional career as artist and printmaker led her to work as wig designer for the American Character Doll in New York City, needlework designer for Reader Mail Co. in New York and plush toy designer for MyToy Co., Brooklyn, and plush and rag toy designer for A&L Novelty, Queens, New York. In 1960 she moved to Kansas City where she designed plush toys for Columbia Toy Co., Gene Toys of St. Louis, Beloved Toy Co. and finally, Superior Toy and Novelty Co., where she retired in 1981. She and her mother also continued with printmaking out of their home, teaching others the process. Most recently April-August, 2012, an exhibition of prints by Helen and her mother has hung in the Lauinger Library Art Gallery at Georgetown University, where Helen donated her family's works and diaries during the late 1980's. Related to the exhibit she and her mother were the subjects of a Georgetown senior art student's thesis, "The Boyer Family: Mother-Daughter, Innovative Printmakers." Her parents and her brother, Taylor M. "Bipps" Boyer, preceded her in death. Surviving are a nephew, Steve Boyer, Seattle, WA a niece, Kathryn Gay of Lexington, Mich., and a host of friends. She was loved by all who met her.


born1919 Pittsburgh, PA
died2012 Northeast Kansas City, MO

self taught

public collections
Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, PA
Georgetown University, Washington DC
Library of Congress, Washington DC
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO




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