Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Helen Blavatsky

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Judy Chicago (American, b. 1939). The Dinner Party (Heritage Floor; detail), 1974–79. Porcelain with rainbow and gold luster, 48 x 48 x 48 ft. (14.6 x 14.6 x 14.6 m). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. Photograph by Jook Leung Photography

Helen Blavatsky
b. 1831, Yekaterinoslav (now Dnipropetrovsk), Ukraine; d. 1891, London

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky—professional name H.P.—inspired a wave of spiritualist vogue in the late nineteenth century. After a brief marriage to a Russian miliary officer, she became interested in occultism and embarked on a period of travel and study, journeying through Asia, Europe, and the United States. In New York City in 1873, she established the Theosophical Society to promote theosophy, a philosophical-religious system blending Christian and Eastern mysticism. Among the founders was attorney Henry Steel Olcott, who had become Blavatsky's close companion. Her first major book, Isis Unveiled, appeared in 1877. Blavatsky and Olcott relocated the floundering Theosophical Society to Madras, India, where they attracted a large following and published the house organ, The Theosophist. Blavatsky's claim to possess psychic powers spurred attacks by European scientific societies and she was dogged by allegations of fraud. She retreated from public life around 1885, living quietly in Germany, Belgium, and London, and writing her most important works, The Secret Doctrine (1888), The Voice of Silence (1889), and Key to Theosophy (1889).

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