OBITUARY: Helen Jones Carter, 95



Elliott Carter and Helen Jones Carter
Photo by Becky Starobin, courtesy Bridge Records

Helen Jones Carter, wife of composer Elliott Carter, died on Saturday, May 17 at the couple’s home in Greenwich Village, New York. The cause was heart failure; she was 95.

She was born in Jersey City, New Jersey on July 4, 1907 to John Jones, an accountant, and Ada Forst Jones. Educated in Jersey City schools, she received studio art training at the Art Students League in New York, where her principal teacher was the Ukrainian Cubist artist Alexander Archipenko. She became active as a sculptor; her portrait head of Marcel Duchamp, a personal friend, is in the collection of the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut. Later, she sculpted a portrait head of Elliott Carter, which can be seen at the New York Public Library (main branch).

bust
Helen Jones Carter’s bust of her husband, Elliott
Image courtesy the New York Public Library

During the 1930′s, she became one of the directors of the WPA Art Program in New York. She met Elliott Carter through a mutual friend; at that time Carter lived in an apartment he had sublet from the composer George Antheil. Helen Jones and Elliott Carter married on July 6, 1939. Their son, David Chambers Carter, was born in 1941. After she married, Helen Carter set aside her career as a sculptor.

Elliott Carter dedicated his recent Boston Concerto to Helen Carter. Premiered on April 3, 2003 by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Ingo Metzmacher, the work bears as its epigraph a poem by William Carlos Williams that reads in part,

As the rain falls
so does
      your love
bathe every
              open
Object of the world

Helen Jones Carter is survived by her husband Elliott Carter, her son David, and his family: Carol and son Alexander Elliott Carter-Park. A memorial service will be held at a later date.