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Live Auction

2024 Summer Fine Art & Antiques (Day 1)

Sat, Jul 6, 2024 09:00AM EDT
Lot 150

Helen La France Church Picnic Painting

Estimate: $3,800 - $4,200

Bid Increments

Price Bid Increment
$0 $10
$100 $25
$500 $50
$1,000 $100
$3,000 $200
$5,000 $500
$10,000 $1,000
$20,000 $2,000
$50,000 $5,000
$100,000 $10,000

Helen LaFrance (American/Kentucky, 1919-2020), "Church Picnic," oil on canvas painting depicting parishioners gathering outside a white frame church. Natural wood grain frame. Signed "Helen La France" lower left and dated 1998. Sight - 30" W x 22" H. Frame - 32" W x 24" H. 

Artist biography: African American artist Helen LaFrance is best known for her "memory paintings," based on her 101 years of life in Graves County, Kentucky. Her parents, James Franklin Orr and Lillie May Ligon Orr, were tobacco farmers, and Helen spent most of her life no more than ten miles from her birthplace in Mayfield. Her mother taught her to draw and paint, helping her mix colors from wildflowers, berries, and laundry detergent, but she did not begin painting full time until her 40s, when she started selling her work at local art shows and fairs. Her subjects mostly focused on scenes of ordinary rural life, such as church picnics and river baptisms, although she occasionally portrayed dramatic events in the life of her community, such as tornadoes and floods, and African scenes inspired by her family's ancestral heritage. LaFrance's work (which also comprised quilts, wood carvings, and dolls) began attracting nationwide interest in the 1990s, and with a burgeoning market of collectors that included famous names such as Oprah Winfrey, Gayle King and Bryant Gumbel, she continued painting well into advanced age. In 2011 she received Kentucky's Folk Art Heritage Award. Her work recently became the subject of a retrospective at the Speed Museum in Louisville, and is also in the permanent collections of the St. Louis Art Museum and the Owensboro KY Museum of Fine Art.

PROVENANCE: Private Middle Tennessee collection, acquired directly from the artist. 


Excellent condition, no damage noted. 

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Private Middle Tennessee collection, acquired directly from the artist.