Helen Farr Sloan, patron of the arts, educator, artist and widow of artist John Sloan, died December 13, 2005, at the age of 94.
Over the past 50 years, Helen Farr Sloan quietly created a remarkable profile as an American philanthropist. Following the 1951 death of her husband, who was one of the Ashcan School of artists, also called “The Eight,” Helen organized the artist’s estate and turned it into a philanthropic instrument.
While her marriage to Sloan lasted only seven years (1944-1951), Helen’s devotion to art was a lifelong commitment. The contents of her husband’s studio and his wide-ranging library became a treasure trove for philanthropic giving. The recipients of her largesse included many museums and schools, but the largest benefactor was the Delaware Art Museum.
Beginning in 1961, and continuing throughout her life, Helen Farr Sloan nurtured a special relationship with the Delaware Art Museum. Because of her gifts and scholarship, the Delaware Art Museum received more than 5,000 works including the preeminent collection of the work of John Sloan with virtually every aspect of his career represented. This has made the Delaware Art Museum the leading repository for the study of Sloan, and the preeminent archive of papers on John Sloan and others in the Ashcan School group. Her donations supplied the museum with almost half of its works of art and more than half of the books and papers in its library. She called the museum “her family.”
In recent decades, Helen Farr Sloan has provided critical financial support to numerous exhibitions, scholarly programs and publications including the transfer of the John Sloan Trust to the Delaware Art Museum. In honor of her many gifts and her dedicated service, the museum re-named its library the Helen Farr Sloan Library and Archives in 1985. More recently, the museum also named a large gallery in its newly renovated building after her.
Helen Farr was born in New York on February 24, 1911. She graduated from high school from The Brearley School for Girls in 1929. At 16 she enrolled in the New York Art Students League where she first met and studied with John Sloan (1871-1951) who became her lifelong friend, mentor and finally, in 1944 after the death of his first wife, her husband.
Helen Farr Sloan is survived by her nephew, Dr Charles Farr, of Fresno, Calif., and his three children, Michael, Kevin and Caroline.
Donations in Helen’s memory may be made to the Delaware Art Museum Helen Farr Sloan Memorial Fund, 2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington DE 19806.