Cybis Artist Profile: Helen Granger Young

Helen Granger Young was one of several freelance sculptors who designed for the Cybis studio during the 1970s. Unlike most of their other designers, Ms. Young’s work for them was limited to a single genre: portraits of Native Americans.

She was born in Mimico, Ontario, Canada in either 1922 or 1923, depending on which source one refers to. A common error found on several art-reference sites on the internet is that she was born in 1944; this is incorrect – and indeed impossible, because she graduated from the Ontario College of Art during the 1930s! She had gone to that institution on a scholarship, where she studied sculpture under Charles Fraser Comfort and Franklin Carmichael. During the 1940s she worked as an art instructor while doing commercial art for two of Canada’s leading retailers, Eaton’s and Hudson’s Bay. After the outbreak of WWII, she helped the war effort by creating technical drawings of military vehicles and aircraft.  She was only in her twenties at the time.

In 1947, Helen moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she began to create sculptures in porcelain and in bronze. Her work in porcelain, including the pieces she designed for Cybis, is perhaps less well-known than are her bronze monuments. In the course of my research into her work I discovered a couple of surprising facts about the pieces she designed for Cybis, so let’s look at them first.

Helen Granger Young porcelain designs for Cybis

Freelance artists employed by Cybis rarely worked (physically) inside the Cybis studio; they might make a few visits, and certainly would deliver their clay maquette renditions of their designs, but once that design was purchased by the studio, their involvement in the process would end. Susan Clark Eaton, being a local resident, was one of the few freelancers who actually spent a great deal of work-time at the Cybis studio. Helen Granger Young, who resided in Canada, obviously did not do that.

All of the sculptures in the initial release of Cybis’ North American Indians Collection were designed by Helen Granger Young. As fully related in their dedicated Archive post – which contains larger photos – the first pieces were introduced in 1969 and the final one (of the first group) in 1974.

This collage shows all but two of Helen Granger Young’s pieces that were produced by Cybis. From the top left, they are: Apache ‘Chato’ (1974); Onandaga ‘Hiawatha’ (1969); Shoshone ‘Sacajawea’ (1971); Dakota ‘Minnehaha’ (1969); Blackfoot ‘Beaverhead Medicine Man’ (1969); and ‘At the Council Fire’ (1973.) Full details on all of these can be found in the North American Indians post.

As far as I have been able to discover, these six sculptures were designed by Helen Granger Young specifically for the series that Cybis wished to create. However, two other designs which were also marketed by Cybis within their North American Indians Collection had been created by Ms. Young quite a few years earlier; at least one them was meant for a different client. For whatever reason, that earlier client did not produce that item (or at least, I have been unable to uncover any indication that they did) and the copyrighted design eventually ended up being sold (by Ms. Young?) to the Cybis studio.

The first of these to hit the shelves under the Cybis branding was Cree ‘Magic Boy.’ As related in its own Archive post, the white bisque version was introduced by Cybis in 1971. However, this entry in the US Copyright Office records
shows that the sculpture had been created and copyrighted nine years earlier (1962) by Helen Granger Young on commission for a company called Leading Thunder, for inclusion in their ‘North American Indian series.’ No search engine has been able to turn up anything about a company by this name, but obviously it did exist at some point during the early 1960s. Perhaps they went out of business before ever producing any goods? In any event, this sculpture ended up being sold to Cybis for use as the ‘Magic Boy’ limited edition in the 1970s and again (in color) in the 1980s. Nowhere in any Cybis advertising literature is Helen Granger Young credited as the designer – but then again, they never credited her for any of the other Cybis pieces either. The difference, of course, is that those other pieces were eventually copyrighted by Cybis, while this one had already been copyrighted by Ms. Young during the previous decade.

Sioux WANKAN TANKA GREAT SPIRIT by CybisThe other surprising copyright discovery was the Cybis Sioux ‘Wankan Tanka’ The Great Spirit which was introduced in 1979 as an edition of 200. Until now, I did not know who the designer was; several of the post-Chato Indians were designed in-house, so I had no reason to assume anything about the others.
So, I was really surprised to discover this 1968 copyright registration by Helen Granger Young. This is definitely the same piece that Cybis produced nine years later. I do wonder if they bought this design at the same time that they purchased the rights to the 1962 Cree piece.

This photo shows Helen Granger Young, at right in the white coat, in Manitoba with Queen Elizabeth II during her Royal Tour of Canada in 1984. It was during this tour that HM was presented with a ‘Wankan Tanka’ on behalf of the people of Manitoba; I have confirmed with the Royal Collection Trust that the piece is signed Cybis and AP and is also autographed by Helen Granger Young – something that never appeared on any retail Cybis piece.

Other Porcelain Designs by Helen Granger Young

I have found evidence of only two other companies for whom Ms. Young designed porcelain sculptures.

The first is the aforementioned ‘Leading Thunder’ client; all of the search engines draw a complete blank when it comes to relevant results. It’s clear that they intended a series, at the start of the 1960s, on the same theme as Marylin Chorlton proposed later in that decade.

Notice that the 1962 Cree copyright registration is slightly different, in that it cites ‘Leading Thunder North American Indian series, no. 2’ which suggests that there was more than one series planned, if not actually physically produced. It’s frustrating that absolutely nothing shows up in searches! Should any reader have one or more of these figures, there’s a contact form link at the bottom of this post; I’d love to find at least one photo!

So, there were at least five Helen Granger Young copyrighted porcelain designs in 1961 and 1962, regardless of whether they were ever actually produced for sale.

The next record of Helen Granger Young porcelains doesn’t appear until late 1979, when she signed an exclusive agreement with Goebel to design for them. I have only been able to find items dated 1980 and 1981, so it may be that she ended her association with them after that point. The pieces were produced at the Goebel of North America studio/factory in Pennington, New Jersey.

Goebel produced these brochures in 1980. Their tagline for her branding was “The sculptural language of Helen Granger Young.”  Like most porcelain studios of the era, there were both limited and non-limited offerings, and some of the limited editions were available in a choice of either white bisque or color.

The Prima Ballerina was an edition of 350, and is 13” high on her base.

Debbie was an open-edition ballerina standing 12.5” high. Part of Ms. Young’s contract with Goebel was that her name would appear in the mold on all her pieces. This was something that the Cybis studio never allowed, regardless of who the designer was.

Another interesting facet is that many of the Goebel pieces appear to have been autographed. These are not decals, which brings up the practical question of when and how that was done. It makes me wonder if some were ‘signatures by proxy’, as the Cybis studio did with two pieces they connected with Michel Cousteau (see the All at Sea post for the backstory.) To make a long story short, although the studio said that the pieces were all signed by Mr. Cousteau, only a small number of them were – the pieces that were sold at a dealer event at which Mr. Cousteau was present. All the others were signed by people who worked at the Cybis studio, and the difference in the signatures is readily apparent to anyone who takes the times to compare them. Did Goebel do the same thing with their Helen Granger Young line? Or did she simply do a very large number of  personal appearances at retailer events during 1980 and 1981?

Kathlyne was one of several “Era of Elegance” female portraits for Goebel. She is similar in name and format to the three shown in the 1980 brochure: Rosalyne, Madelyne, and Charlyne. All are about 12” high on their base and were editions of 500.

The next three figures were non-limited Goebel from 1980.
They are, from top to bottom, John, Mary Magdalene, and Simon Peter and are approximately 10 inches high.
The typical open-edition Goebel backstamp for the Helen Granger Young series, one autographed and one not.

This was their limited-edition backstamp format.
Two items that accompanied a limited edition: the COA and a folder embossed with the brand’s tagline “the sculptural language of Helen Granger Young.”

Helen Granger Young Bronzes

Ms. Young is widely known in Canada for her bronze monuments, so I am going to show only a few of them.

The Tri-Service Memorial, on Memorial Boulevard in Winnipeg, honors the women who served in Canada’s army, navy and air force during both World Wars. The design of the monument came from Beryl Isabel Simpson, then-president of the Women’s Tri-Service Veterans Association, but the actual sculpting was done by Helen Granger Young. The monument was unveiled in July 1976 but Queen Elizabeth’s schedule did not allow her to attend. The monument was re-dedicated during the Queen’s 1984 tour of Canada; she herself had served as a mechanic and military truck driver during World War II.

The Airman in Training was installed in Winnipeg Memorial Park in 1984.

That park also contains a number of bronze busts by Helen Granger Young within its grounds, of which these are a selection. At top left, Donald McDonald (first Chief Commander of the City of Winnipeg in 1971); top right, Duff Roblin (Manitoba premier from 1958-1967); bottom left, Edward Drewry (late-1800s Winnipeg philanthropist); bottom right, Israel Asper (leader of the Liberal Party in Manitoba during the 1970s.)

This is the Brant County War Memorial; the marble base reads They gave their lives for humanity. The monument was unveiled in 1992.
This is one of Helen Granger Young’s late-1980s sketches for the female side of the monument. Her original design called for four figures on each side, but as you can see, there are only three men; the fourth was eliminated due to budget constraints. In 2020 a proposal was floated to relocate the figures and to add a fourth male but, due to issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic, that plan was put on hold.

This is the Famous Five Monument on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislative Building. It was commissioned by the Nellie McClung Foundation at a final cost of $750,000 CDN and unveiled in June 2010. The group portrays Judge Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Nellie McClung – all of whom brought a case to the Supreme Court of Canada to reverse a 1928 decision that women could not hold a Senatorial office because they were not “persons.” Needless to say, they won the case, and there is an excellent YouTube video showing the creation process of this Famous Five monument.

 

The most recent Helen Granger Young bronze monument is probably The Prairie Sailor. This is her original maquette (small clay model) of the project, which was commissioned by the Naval Museum of Manitoba. During the entire history of the Canadian Navy, a large proportion of the men and women who served have come from the prairies – yet there had never been a monument honoring their service specifically. During the “Battle of The Atlantic” from September 1939 to May 1945, the navy lost 24 ships and more than 2000 personnel, the majority of whom had been from the prairies of Canada.
The finished monument was dedicated in May 2014, on the grounds of the Naval Museum.

Helen Granger Young has received numerous awards and accolades in Canada, including the Order of Manitoba and the Women of Distinction. This photo was taken in 2016 at the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire charitable organization in Toronto.

It would be interesting to know whether the Cybis Crow Dancer and/or Kateri Tekakwitha were also originally designed by Ms. Young. Now that we know Cybis did purchase at least two of her earlier copyrighted designs, it is possible that they could have acquired more. (The Eagle Dancer was definitely sculpted by William Pae but he did not do those two.)

Browse the other Cybis Artist Profiles

Name Index of Cybis Sculptures
Visual Index (for human figures/busts only)

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