Determined to become an artist, Heliker dropped out of high school to copy paintings at the Metropolitan Museum. From 1927 until 1929 he studied with Kimon Nicolaides, Thomas Hart Benton, and Boardman Robinson at the Art Students League. After several years away Heliker returned to New York in the 1930s and in 1947 joined the faculty at Columbia University where he taught until his retirement. Heliker won a Prix de Rome in 1948 and spent the next five summers in Italy. At this time larger strokes and freer designs began replacing the structural, Cézannesque abstractions that occupied him in the 1940s and early 1950s. A painter of landscapes, portraits, and still lifes, Heliker chooses traditional subject matter for his semi-abstract, painterly compositions.
Virginia M. Mecklenburg Modern American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press for the National Museum of American Art, 1987)