Tower of London

Every week I look forward to Friday morning and a treat in the form of Bernadette’s regular ‘Feminist Friday’ posts on her blog haddonmusings.com  The women featured, both famous and not so famous, are aways inspiring and fascinating. Recently I heard the story of one British woman who was a trailblazer in the world of printmaking and I want to share her life, her work with you.

helenaArtist and printmaker Helena Markson is a person whose name and fame should have spread far beyond her field of expertise. Born in London in 1934, she studied at Salisbury School of Art and then at Central School of Art before becoming a successful professional printmaker. Initially she co-directed a Fine Art Printmaking workshop, soon after she set up an etching studio in London before teaching at Chelsea College of Art and St. Martin’s School of Art in London. During this time she exhibited many of her prints. Her lifelong career took her across the UK, to America and Israel and she worked until her death in 2012.  

Brighton Fair

Although there were women involved in printmaking in the 1950s, most would work on smaller pieces that were made using less equipment and could be done at home, for example wood engravings, wood-cuttings and lino cuttings. Helena was unusual in that she worked in etchings, often large ones, which used acid and print presses; in other words she worked from a print studio with both the space and ventilation she required. 

Albert Dock


Throughout her life Helena was inspired by architecture and her range of work reflects this; she always depicted places she had a special connection to and particularly buildings. These were firstly from her life in London and Salisbury. Later Liverpool featured strongly in her work following an important  commission by the main town planner who had been drawn to her earlier work. As a result she spent much time completing a series of prints highlighting the urban renewal undergoing in Liverpool in the 1960s.

Palm House

Israel was the centre for the latter part of Helena’s career as well as her life. Initially she was invited to show her work in the country, however she was immediately fascinated and drawn to the country and its people and in 1970 Helena moved permanently to Israel. Helena is held in high esteem in the county and is seen as a pioneer who set up the country’s first print studio at the newly created University of Haifa. As co-founder of the Art Department within the university she brought printing presses and equipment from the UK to form the new print studio. Later she set up the Fine Art Print Studios and taught lithography and etching and became Professor Emeritus of Haifa University. 

Waving Grasses

Helena was a private person throughout her life but she always retained a strong emotional presence to wherever she worked and this was true for her work in Israel which cemented her fascination with landscape and all her prints are imbued by a sense of place. However in Israel there was a transition in her style; her early work of London and Liverpool  were mainly monotone subtle colours and architectural whilst her later prints gave more a sense of space in vibrant blues and oranges. 

Abercrombie Square

Even though she lived and worked in Israel until her death aged 78, Helena continued to visit the UK and America.  In the UK the poet, Dylan Thomas, particularly caught her attention and she completed a series based on his poems called ‘Dwelling Places’ with images of places she had lived, books she had read and people she knew. 

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book-coverHelena Markson’s beautiful prints are open to view in collections around the world including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Tate Britain in London. A book celebrating her work has recently been released and is entitled ‘Helena Markson – A Sense of Place’ .

Sources include: BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Friday    25. 11.16    10.00 am

89 thoughts on “A SENSE OF PLACE

    1. Thank you very your much lovely comment, Tatyana! 😀 The photographs of the prints are amazing and even more impressive in real life, I’m sure! Have a wonderful time viewing her work at the MOMA.I look forward to reading about your impressions of her work on your blog.

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this insight into Helena’s life and work – as a printmaker myself, it is always interesting to read about other artists and to see how their work has developed over time. I find Helena’s work to be timeless and beautiful.

    1. Jo, thank you so much for your comment and it is lovely to read your insights about the post and Helena’s work from your professional perspective. ‘Timeless’ captures her work perfectly…true art often is timeless and will always touch people and be relevant forever. So glad you liked the post! 😀

  2. This story is a great example of a woman who clearly knew her gifts and accomplished great things because of it. I admire her focus and tenacity. I imagine during that time it wasn’t easy attaining those unheard of feats as a women and rising to her truly calling , while continuing to express her style and method of art.

    1. Tia, this is such a wonderful and insightful comment summing up Helena’s commitment to her work in an era when this was unheard of. Her tenacity is admirable and something to which we can all aspire.

  3. I’ve never heard of Helena Markson Annika, I love her art. I was particularly interested to read that she attended Salisbury School of Art, a place my daughter looked into before attending another art & design college! Thank you so much for sharing such an informative, fascinating and visually gorgeous post 🙂 xxx

    1. Sherri, it’s a small world indeed – I’d never heard of Salisbury School of Art before but the way it was mentioned made me realise it must be quite prestigious. These colleges are brilliant as they offer so many varied courses in all forms such as Helena’s work. The prints themselves are so visually appealing and Helena’s story so captivating I couldn’t help but share it here on WP. So glad you enjoyed the post, Sherri…don’t you just long for the warm of the Summer sun when looking at some? 😀

      1. Just wonderful, I love them! I’m so glad you shared Helena’s fascinating story here Annika. And yes, although I love frosty winter days (and oh, how we long for some snow, right?), looking at these beautiful paintings certainly does bring back a hankering for those long, lazy days of Summer, to look forward to! 🙂 xxx

  4. These are the people – the women – we never hear about who are unsung heroes in making a difference, challenging the status quo, quietly breaking barriers. Thanks for helping your readers/followers become aware of Helena, Annika. I loved learning about her and seeing her amazing art. P.S. My guess from the way her art emerged, grew, became more colorful, is that she was much happier in her later life, in Israel.

    1. Pam, I so agree with the latter part of your comment, the colours and her light touch are filled with joy. Researching this post I begin to wonder how many others out there make a huge difference or are especially creative but are never recognised for their work.

  5. Wow! How beautiful these artworks are! Helena, did have a beautiful mind! I notice none of her artworks bear extreme colours like dark red. They are all soothing colours, used in a light tone, conveying a feeling of mellow and soft feelings. I am so enamored by her personality! And you know, the snowflakes passing across these paintings as I watch them is adding a surpringly pleasant charm to the whole experience. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your wonderful comment! 😀 Your gentle analysis picks up on Helena’s great sense of harmony, reflected in her work…I hadn’t thought about the soothing colours before but you are right, so mellow…they remind me of the colours of the Mediterranean on a soft sunset. You can just imagine what a lovely person she would have been from her work. Of course after you mentioning the snowflakes across the images I had to go back and see for myself…how true, very charming and relaxing – a tinge of winter snow across her prints. 😀

  6. These are really beautiful prints, Annika. So nice to learn about Helena Markson and to see the person behind all this art. She looks like she’s doing exactly what she likes in the photo!

    1. This was just one of two photos of Helena Markson I could find but thought it said so much – her joy at her work shines out!😀 I think the print on the desk is that of Queen’s Dock…think that would have been a new piece of work then!

  7. A stunning woman indeed. Thank you for introducing the artist and printmaker Helena Markson to us, Annika. The book is on my list. What a beautiful title!

    1. Dina, it is my pleasure! 😀 The book looks fascinating and the title inspired – reflecting the theme central to her work throughout her lifetime. Hope you have a chance to enjoy the book; I’m going to see some of her work in London next year.

  8. Your post is so aptly named, Anika – “A sense of place.” Moving from a place where monumental architecture ruled the landscape to a place of nature, color, and connection transformed Helena’s work. A lovely post that highlights a gifted artist.

    1. Carol, I wish I could take credit for the name of this post but must admit it is the title of the book about her work – very apt as you say and encapsulates the essence of her work. The transformation within her work is fascinating to follow and almost central to the interest in her work now I believe.

  9. Annika, these are beautiful and colorful art prints! Thank you for telling about Helena’s life’s journey, as well as her large prints. This was so important to mention how women during this time period usually spent more time with smaller forms of prints, such as linoleum etchings and wood engravings.
    I like “Brighton Fair” with the carrousel and soothing blues. “Canonbury” is striking, like a pen and ink, in its depiction of laundry hung out over city apartment buildings (tenements?). My favorite has an equal amount of nature and architecture in the print, “Palm House.” I love this one! 🙂

    1. Robin, thank you for taking so much interest in this post and for your lovely comment. I love that Palm House is one of your favourite for both its architecture and nature – I read up further and discovered it is actually the Palm House in Liverpool which is still there and open to visitors. You have quite the grasp of local English terms and they are indeed called tenements from that era – I agree Canonbury really does resemble an ink drawing, particularly as it is so unlike any of the other etchings. Checking up though it is still an etching, amazing really. An interesting artistic female trailblazer indeed!

      1. So excited that you looked once again at the Canonbury etching. My love of pen and ink drawings, her intricate print work on this one made me pay attention to Helena’s details.
        Thank you for doing the research on the Palm House print! So happy it is still located in Liverpool. This makes me very content with the colors and how it still carries on like a beacon for this part of England. Annika, you write posts of interest to many, which also touch my interests. Thank you, dear friend. xo

  10. I enjoyed this, Annika. I wasn’t familiar with Markson and found that her work grew on me as I went back over your blog several times. The backstory added to the enjoyment. Thanks. –Curt

    1. Thank you so much for your considered comment, Curt – so often it is knowing the backstory that makes art, books etc especially interesting. Here it is critical to know about her move to Israel to understand the transformation in her work regarding colours and style.

    1. Christy, I’ve never written a post quite like this before, featuring one person but it was interesting to do and very rewarding for the readers as well…always lovely to share. Thank you so much for your comment!😀

    1. Thank you, Carol – I felt the prints almost spoke for themselves. So glad you enjoyed the visual display and I must admit to having studied these for quite a while and always see something different. That is the joy with all art forms!😀

    1. Thank you so much, it was a joy to learn more about Helena and to share some of her life here…unique is definitely the word as I haven’t come across much art work like this before…more research beckons!😀

    1. Julie, when I came across the Waving Grass print I was blown away, it was so different from her other work and such a different feel than the cityscapes. I tried to find something similar but alas couldn’t find any, however trees do feature in some!

  11. Khaya Ronkainen

    Thank you for this post, Annika. I love reading about trailblazers too, they inspire hope and success against the odds. And I agree Helena’s artwork is simply amazing!

  12. Anonymous

    I’d never heard of Helena before reading your blog. Her prints are amazing, particularly those she produced after moving to Israel. The colours really shine and convey her happiness too I think.

    Thanks for sharing this.


    1. Mike, I love your final comment about the colours shining and conveying her happiness…beautifully put and I think very true too. May we all shine with such artistic verve!😀 Her time in Israel was obviously transformative.

    1. Jacqui, story bird sounds like a wonderful digital teaching aid – such a perfectly brilliant idea.😀 It’s fantastic that modern technology can bring so much positive and stimulating aspect to school studies. I can see Helena’s works of art inspiring many stories – looking at them myself I feel ideas bubbling away…

  13. Annika, thank you for the wonderful introduction to Helena Markson’s life which I found very inteesting. Her prints are just beautiful. She reminds me of Georgia O’Keeffe in this country who never really received the praise she should have over her lifetime either. This is such a sad statement for the 21 century.

    1. JC, that is an interesting parallel you draw with Georgia O’Keefe and her lack of recognition during her lifetime – just imagine if the name of Helena Markson will one day be as famous! Posthumously the former is now known around the globe. It seems to be a fact that many artists, writers etc gain fame after their deaths…not only in this century but in the previous ones too. You only have to think of Van Gogh!

  14. Thank you for introducing us to Helena, Annika. Her prints are amazing and they have unique style which I love. As for the first photo of her, look how happy she is. Obviously the woman loved her work…not many people can say that. Great post!

    1. Jill, I obediently went and looked at her photo again! 😀😀 And wow, you’re right, she is so happy, radiant and imbued with a sense of confidence surrounded by her work. This was the only photograph I could find of her, but I would say no more is needed, it says so much. Also I tried to learn more about her personal life but again very little, then I began to realise again, that it wasn’t necessary. Her work speaks volumes. Thank you so much for your warm comment, Jill. 😀 Wishing you a lovely weekend!

  15. Her prints are so dreamy, especially the Tower of London and the Waving Grasses. It’s amazing that she was able to do so much. Thank you for introducing us to her and to Feminist Fridays – I’ll make sure to follow those now!

    1. Sheila, I love that you mention the two very different styles of prints which I feel sum up the personal journey she made throughout her lifetime represented in her art…they’re both fabulous. 😀😀 So glad you liked the post and are now following Feminist Friday…I always come away from them more learned and inspired! Have a wonderful weekend. 😀

    1. Jo, I only came across the Tower of London after I’d completed the post but it immediately became of my favourites too, the multitude of colours a delight and so powerful. It is amazing. I’m now tempted to try and see some of these in real life! 😀

  16. Thanks for sharing, Annika. Helena’s work is beautiful and unusual. I could see the transition from the more blocky monochromatic pieces to the more fluid and vibrant colors in her landscapes. They’re all wonderful. She was clearly a pioneer. What an interesting life. 🙂

    1. Diana, I think it’s this transition / journey of Helena Markson that stands out for me too and is so interesting to view through her work. The wavy grasses one is so unlike her earlier work quite free from her architectural roots, letting the imagination roam free.

  17. Annika, thank you for the story of Helena Markson. What an interesting life she led filled with creativity and determination it seems to do things her own way. I live near New York and now will make it a point to go see her work.

    1. Wow, that would be great to see her work for real, Bernadette. I’m not far from London and keep meaning to go to the Tate but never got round to it (one of those things) but this has inspired me to set a date! Her self-determination and willpower is reflected in her work and the steps she took…it’s been enjoyable and interesting researching this post and thank you for inspiring me to have a go.

    1. Janice, I agree that these aspects of the prints are wonderful and particularly the development of her work during her lifetime, especially following her move to Israel – you can just feel the warmth of the sun, the landscape imbuing her work.

  18. delphini510

    Such an artistically presented blog introducing to us a great woman
    ,Helena Markson, who by strength of art and charachter should have
    been well known. Her life is remarkable and her work so very beautiful. Waving grasses
    really caught me.
    Thank you for giving such a literary and visual treat this morning. As well as yet again proving
    that many good and talented people are not known whilst the darker side of society takes the headlines.

    1. Mirja, thank you so much for your lovely and philosophical comment. 😀 Yes, too often the dark desperate news takes precedence so it’s great to learn about and give a voice to the artistic brighter side of life. Helena really captured my interest, her work so colourful, vibrant and her love of life evident in all she did it. For her to carve out such a successful career in that era is quite something…I have a feeling that slowly she will gain the recognition she so richly deserves. 😀

  19. The Poetry Channel

    An interesting person. Women and others were excluded from that powerful firm of mass communication. I love to read about trailblazers. Thank you, Annika.

    1. Trailblazers are so fascinating I agree, succeeding against the odds and so often without any fanfare or wide public recognition. Helena lived such an interesting and varied life, it has been a delight learning about her life and sharing it here. Many thanks for your perceptive comment, Michael. 😀

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