Library Catalog - Kentucky Historical Society

Object Record

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Object Name Portrait
Title Governor John Larue Helm Portrait
Catalog Number 1977.25.1
Creator Helm, Katherine
Date ca. 1920
Material(s) Canvas
Dimensions H-30.125 W-25 D-0.875 inches
Description Bust portrait of Governor John Larue Helm.

The portrait depicts an older gentleman with a soft expression and wearing a formal suit with a white undershirt. He appears to be balding at the center with wispy hair on the side of his head. He is standing in front of a black wash background.

The artist signed the painting in the top left corner with red paint and reads "K. Helm."
Notes John Larue Helm (1802-1867) Helm was a Whig who later became a Democrat. He was a lawyer, state legislator, Speaker of the state house, and lieutenant governor, becoming governor upon Crittenden's resignation. Helm was elected in his own right (as a Democrat) on a platform of reconciliation after the Civil War. Ill upon taking office, Helm was the only governor inaugurated outside the state capital (September 3, 1867) and died five days later. An advocate of internal improvements to foster economic growth, he championed the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.

Katherine Helm (1857-1937) was a daughter of Confederate General Ben Hardin Helm and Emilie Todd Helm, a half-sister to Mary Todd Lincoln. Katherine is most well known for her portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln that currently hangs in the White House. This portrait she painted based on how she imagined her aunt's attire on Lincoln's inauguration in 1861. She studied art at the Art Students' League in New York City and for a time maintained a studio up there. However, she would return to Kentucky 1912 until her death she lived and painted at Helm Place on Bowman's Mill Road. It was here where she painted portraitures of governors and other heroes of the south, from both photographs and imagination. Many of her works were displayed in the Kentucky Building of the World's Fair in Saint Louis. She wrote the novel "The True Story of Mary, Wife of Lincoln" and has an autobiography about her written by William H. Townsend entitled "Lincoln's 'Rebel' Niece, Katherine Helm, Artist and Author (1945).
Collection Dorothy Helm Martin Estate Collection
People Helm, Katherine
Helm family
Helm, John Larue
Subjects Art
Oil paintings
Politics & government
Portrait paintings
Search Terms Fayette County (Ky.)
Hardin County (Ky.)
Lexington (Ky.)
Physical Holder Kentucky Historical Society - KHS