Sarasota Creators, Helen Sawyer

Helen Sawyer was born around 1898 in Washington DC. The daughter of painter Wells Sawyer, Helen saw success as an artist at a young age. She was only 16 years old when she had her works in a juried exhibition at the National Academy of Design in New York City.

Portrait of Helen Sawyer by her husband Jerry Farnsworth

Helen and her husband Jerry Farnsworth, who was also a renowned artist, founded their first art school in North Truro, Massachusetts before founding the Farnsworth School of Art in Sarasota County in the early 1940’s. This school brought many talented artists to the area during its time in operation. 

Sawyer combined her unique lens as an American impressionist with the beauty of Florida to paint landscapes, the gulf, and even the circus. In 1949 American Artist Magazine had this to say of Sawyer, Always she paints to express a mood rather than to record a particular scene – the threat and fury of seas and sky rather than a particular place in time of storm.”

In addition to founding the school and her works of art that were influenced by Sarasota, Helen also became an advocate for local arts. She was involved in the Beaux Arts Ball, fundraising for the Sarasota Art Association, served as president of the Florida Artists Group, and was a member of the Petticoat Painters.

Helen Sawyer and her husband lifted local arts to a higher level. It is no wonder she is often referred to as the heart of the Sarasota art world.  

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