Agua Caliente

circa 1930

"Agua Caliente" is a woodcut created about 1930 by American artist Helen Bruton (1898-1985). It is pencil signed and was printed by the artist on ivory laid paper measuring 9 x 10-3/4 inches. The edition is presumed to be quite limited.

"Agua Caliente" is an amusing depiction of figures in black woolen swimsuits relaxing in a naturally formed hot spring. In 1930, Helen and her sister Esther spent the summer in the town of Saint Helena just east of the Sonoma Valley where the village of Agua Caliente is situated. Boyes Hot Springs, Fetters Hot Springs, and Agua Caliente make up an area once used medicinally by local tribes, the Miwok, Pomo, and Wintun.

Helen Bell Bruton, painter, printmaker and mosaic muralist, was born in Alameda, California in 1898. Helen had two older sisters, Margaret and Esther who were also artists. Helen studied at the University of California at Berkeley but World War I interrupted her studies. Helen joined her sisters working at the Letterman Hospital in San Francisco. After the war, Helen moved to New York to attend the Art Students' League where she studied with sculptors Stirling Calder and Leo Lentelli. In 1925, Helen joined her sisters in Paris to study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and she later returned to New York to study with Boardman Robinson.

Helen worked in the drafting department of the Gladding McBean tile company in Los Angeles where she was asked to design a series of terra cotta portraits. These panels of philosophers are now in the Mudd Memorial Library of the University of Southern California. In 1933, Helen began working in mosaic and, under the auspices of the Federal Art Project, she and Margaret worked on a mosaic project for the exterior panels for the Fleishhacker Zoo Mother House in San Francisco.

Helen Bruton was a member of and exhibited with the California Society of Etchers and the Progressive California Painters. Her work was also included in the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939.

6 1/4 x 7 1/16 inches
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