Untitled (Seahorse Conversation)

Helen DuPré Moseley
SAM 2021.12

ink on paper

ca. 1945

Gift of the estate of Cynthia Moseley

about the work

Helen DuPré Moseley created her ink drawings early in her artistic career.  These two minimal and ambiguous features can be interpreted as many different animals—perhaps a seahorse, a swan or goose, a rabbit or hamster.

about the artist

"My 'creatures' do not have titles. They speak for themselves. If they amuse you, I shall be happy, but perhaps some of you will also find in them a deeper meaning. I hope so." -Helen DuPré Moseley


Hailing from an academic family with ties to Wofford College, Helen DuPré Moseley (1887 - 1984) enjoyed an educated life from an early age that sparked a lifelong love of learning and inquisitive curiosity. Widowed at a young age, and left to raise three young children alone, she entered the workforce to support her family. After being appointed the first female postmaster in the state of South Carolina by President Roosevelt in 1934, Moseley managed a growing team of over 100 postal employees during her 21-year tenure. 


Upon her retirement from the postal service, Moseley started her painting career as a hobby. Many trips to New York City to visit her sister Grace DuPré, an accomplished portrait artist in her own right, exposed her to many of the preeminent artists of the day. 


Though never formally trained in art, Moseley quickly earned an exhibition of her pen and ink drawings at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, to much acclaim. Each of her works is untitled, leaving to the viewer's discretion and interpretation the content of each painting. Best categorized as a surrealist, Moseley drew inspiration from such artists as Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Franciso Goya, and Hieronymus Bosch, as well as medieval heraldry, ancient Egyptian art, and masks from Africa and Oceania. Many viewers throughout the years have drawn comparisons between her work and the whimsical illustrations of children's author Dr. Seuss.


With such myriad influences and comparisons, it's no wonder that Moseley's thematic material varies widely within her work. Animal-human hybrid creatures,  social commentary, authority figures, masked individuals, and religious rituals can all be found within her paintings. While these elements can invoke fear, confusion, and other powerful emotions, there exists an underlying element of humor and playfulness, with bright cheerful colors juxtaposed against serious symbolic imagery. Though jarring upon first glance, with closer examination on can find numerous meanings embedded in her work.



special thanks to research assistant Augusta Switzer