Last weekend, my friend Josephine and I drove down to Jacksonville, IL for a very special event at the David Strawn Gallery.
Louise Bone, Curator and Collector
I heard about Nellie Knopf for years through our friend, Jenny Norris Peterson, because her mother was a devoted collector of this Jacksonville artist. Louise had graduated from MacMurray College, where Nellie had taught. Although she never met her, she was fascinated. .
Born in Chicago, Knopf studied at the Art Institute of Chicago under John Vanderpoel and Frederick Freer, graduating in 1900. That same year she joined the faculty of the Illinois Women’s College at Jacksonville (now MacMurray College.) She received her doctorate from the College in 1935, and continued to teach there until 1943. From 1910 to 1917 Knopf spent summers studying with Charles Woodbury in Ogunguit, Maine. She also studied with Birger Sandzen at the Broadmoor Academy.
Knopf began making summer painting trips in the West in 1921. She used two sabbaticals in 1923-1924 and 1941-1942 to visit California, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Texas and Colorado. She went to Glacier National Park during the summers of 1925 and 1926, and in later years traveled to Mexico. After retiring, Knopf moved to Lansing, Michigan and later to Eaton Rapids, Michigan.
Knopf primarily painted landscape views in oil, working in a modernist style with loose brush work. She exhibited her paintings extensively including such venues as the Corcoran Gallery, National Academy of Design, Kansas City Museum of Art, and the Detroit Institute of Arts. In 1987 MacMurray College held a major retrospective of Knopf’s work.
Louise entertained the crowd with anecdotes from her years of hunting Knopfs in antique shops and approaching private persons who had inherited, her nerve-wracking moments and greatest triumphs. She was not the only collector whose paintings were being exhibited, of course, but only two of them regaled us with stories of the hunt. We were also entertained by John Beeskow.
With only rare exception I did not photograph the names of the paintings or their contributors, since there were crowds of people at the exhibit and I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone. From the bio provided at the beginning of this entry, one can guess at the locals, based upon her travels.
By and large her paintings of Maine are among her earliest. I particularly like the way they are painted. Later paintings show the influences of painters like Cezanne — at least to my eyes.
This painting of junked cars was a particular favorite of mine, probably because of the subject matter. No one junks cars like this after all, so it has the vintage feel of its time. I would buy it in a second, if I could afford it.
We were served wine when we walked through the door and a violinist began to play Ashkolan Farewell underneath this Civil War era style painting. I don’t know whether it was actually from that area; it may have been painted posthumously from a photograph, but it was evocative nonetheless.
Louise and Chet Bone own another painting Nellie did of this subject. She painted flowers in the wintertime. Her florals are among the paintings I like best. At MacMurray, Nellie lived in the dormitory with the women students and ate in the cafeteria in order to conserve money for summer travels.
Artist and Organizer, Tabby Ivy, and Jenny
Meeting Tabby was one of the pleasures of this excursion. Tabby met Louise when she was organizing an exhibit of women who had painted Glacier National Park, past and present, for the Hockaday Museum in Kalispell, MT, and made the trip to Illinois to enjoy friendship and art.
Jacksonville, which is only an hour from Springfield and less than that from Salem, where Lincoln practiced law, is rich in Lincoln associations. It is full of beautiful nineteenth century houses. There is a walking and driving tour. It is well worth the visit and I intend to return when I have more time.