Living under the Portuguese Estado Novo dictatorship pushed Helena Almeida to her limits. She was constantly breaking through boundaries, whether that rebellion manifested itself by her challenging patriarchy or art itself. She wasn’t confined to the limits that society gave women and wasn’t even limited to the outer lines of a canvas. She exercised this idea by wearing a canvas around her garden, as an over-sized necklace. “I was impressed by the obscure side of the slash, the mystery of what is beyond the canvas. But unlike Fontana, I wanted to do something that would detach from the painting. Instead of showing the reverse of the canvas, I went out of the canvas,” she explained.
She started her art career by being a painter, then experimented with black and white photography. This marriage of two art forms propelled Almeida into galleries worldwide.
One of the mysteries that surrounds her better known series, For Study for Inner Improvement, is her use of a very specific blue paint. This blue seems to be the exact shade that painter Yves Klein famously used in his works. Almeida expressed dissatisfaction with Klein’s use of the female body in his work. She never admitted that this series had anything to do with Klein, but was perceived as a way of letting him know that women are not to be consumed for his art. She is seen consuming this blue which sends a message loud and clear. This series was seen to be a liberating move for women in the arts and is celebrated as such to this day.