Irma René Koen was a true Renaissance woman of the arts, who was certainly ahead of her time. She was born in Rock Island, IL, and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago with prominent landscape painter Charles Francis Browne and with leading Danish-American portraitist John Christen Johansen. Irma’s talents and interests extended beyond painting over the course of her lifetime. In her youth, she danced in theatrical benefits and was an accomplished cellist. After moving to Mexico permanently in 1944, Irma continued painting and traveling. She exhibited her vivid plein-air paintings, watercolors, and gouache scenes for nearly 70 year in galleries and museums in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, and in Paris and throughout Mexico.
The Figge Art Museum in Davenport is celebrating the works of Koen in their exhibit “Irma René Koen: An Artist Rediscovered.” It features more than forty of her paintings produced over the course of seventy years. Her art was largely forgotten until art historian Cynthia Wiedemann Empen, Ph. D., began a line of research that uncovered this intriguing local figure. The exhibit is on view at the Figge Art Museum through December 31, 2017.
Guest curator, Dr. Cunthia Wiedemann Empen and the Figge Art Museum’s Assistant Curator for this exhibit, Vanessa Sage, talk with IPR’s Jacqueline Halbloom about Ms. Irma René Koen and her legacy. Tune in at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, December 12th, 2017.