by George J. Dance


Frederic Clay Bartlett (1875-1933) and Helen Birch Bartlett (1883-1925). Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago.

Helen Louise Birch Bartlett (February 27, 1883 - October 24, 1925) was an American poet, composer, and philanthropist.[1]


Bartlett was born Helen Louise Birch,[2] the daughter of Maria (Root) (1848-1913) and lawyer Hugh Taylor Birch (1848-1943), in Chicago. As the only child in her family to survive into her 20's, she was doted on by her father, with whom she spent much time in Florida, and accompanied both parents on trips to Europe. She was educated mainly by governesses.[1]

She became the 2nd wife of painter Frederic Clay Bartlett (1875-1953) on January 22, 1919, in Boston.[1] As a wedding gift, Birch gave his daughter land in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where the Bartletts built Bonnet House as a winter retreat in 1920.[3] They also owned a home in Massachusetts.[1]

The couple have been described as "a fixture of Chicago’s civic-minded elite during the first decades of the 20th century." She supported Poetry magazine and the Chicago Symphony.[4]

Helen Bartlett published poems and brook reviews in Poetry from 1917 to her death. (Because Poetry's editor, Harriet Monroe, was a friend, she first submitted under a pseudonym).[1] Her one collection of poetry was published posthumously in 1927.[5]

She also composed music, writing and publishing musical settings to poems by Yeats and Matthew Arnold, among others.[1]

The Bartletts made frequent trips to Europe, where they amassed an "adventurous" collection of modern art, including paintings by Paul Cézanne, André Derain, André Dunoyer de Segonzac, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, André Lhôte, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Georges Seurat, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.[4] Their collection was exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago five times, beginning in September 1923.[1]

She died of cancer in New York City at the age of 43.[1]


The year after Helen's death, Frederic Bartlett presented their collection of modern art to the Art Institute of Chicago. The Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection was permanently installed in the museum in May 1926.[4]

Bartlett's 3rd wife, Evelyn Fortune Bartlett, gave Bonnet House to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. Bonnet House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, and declared a historic landmark by the City of Fort Lauderdale in 2002. In 2004, the National Trust for Historic Preservation included Bonnet House in its Save America’s Treasures program.[3]


See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Courtney Graham Donnell, " Frederic Clay and Helen Birch Bartlett: The collectors," Web, May 24, 2015.
  2. Notes, Poetry, October 1917, 58. Web, Oct. 25, 2015.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bonnet House History, Web, May 24, 2015.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Historic Collections: The Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, Art Institute of Chicago. Web, May 24, 2015.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Search results = au:Helen Birch Bartlett, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, May 24, 2015.

External linksEdit

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