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 Fern Isabel Kuns Coppedge  (1883 - 1951)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/Kansas/Illinois      Known for: landscape, snowscene and coastal view painting

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Ad Code: 2
Fern Isabel Coppedge
from Auction House Records.
The Delaware Valley
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Fern Isabel Kuns Coppedge (b. 1883 sometimes listed as 1885 or 1888-d. 1951)

Born in Decatur, Illinois with the maiden name of Kuns, Fern Coppedge became a plein-air impressionist painter especially noted for snowscene landscapes of New Hope, Pennsylvania where she first visited in 1917 and eventually with M. Elizabeth Price, became one of two significant women artists in the Colony.  In fact, she established such a strong reputation for herself that she was listed by respected New Hope art historian, Thomas Folk, as "among the most important figures in the late Pennsylvania School" (31), those born after 1882.  In 1920, Coppedge bought a studio in Lumberville, near New Hope, and that same year, participated in the New Hope groups' first exhibition.   In 1929, she built a house on the Main Street of New Hope, and modeled it after designs of Old Bucks County farmhouse and the studio after a 19th-century carriage house.

One of her close associates was Daniel Garber, a foremost New Hope painter whom she had met when he was a teacher and she was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy.  She was also much influenced in her nostalgic winter scenes by the painting of Edward Redfield.

For 30 years from her first visit, she traveled between New Hope, nearby Lumberville, and her studio in Philadelphia.  Much taken with the "area's quaint towns and gently rolling hills dotted with nineteenth-century farmhouses (Zellman, 823), she traveled continually in the area for subject matter, often doing sketching and painting from the back seat of her car.  She was regarded as "something of a local character", an impression underscored by a description in a 1933 exhibition review by Elizabeth Arnold:  "We remember seeing Mrs. Coppedge trudging through the deep snow wrapped in a bearskin coat, her sketching materials slung over her shoulder, her blue eyes sparkling with the joy of life.  . . .Born a man, she undoubtedly would have manned a trawler and sailed the Artic Ocean.  For her passion is space, the open spaces of land and sea." (Folk, 106)

Her style of Impressionism emphasized bright, contrasting colors, and today she, a highly prolific painter, is often compared to the Fauves and European post-impressionists. 

Her art interests go back to her growing up when she was attending high school in Topeka, Kansas, and was encouraged by her teachers to pursue further art training.  She enrolled at the University of Kansas, and in 1910, married Robert Coppedge, a biology professor at the University.  However, after their marriage, "he mysteriously disappears from all discussion of the artist" (Folk, 105) and apparently no explanation for that omission has been found. 

Coppedge continued art studies at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Then she went to New York City to study with William Merritt Chase at the Art Students League, and she also studied with John Fabian Carlson in Woodstock, New York.  From 1918 to 1919, she attended classes on a fellowship at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where Daniel Garber was one of her teachers.  Further study was with Henry B. Snell at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women.

During her career, in addition to painting at New Hope, she spent many summers painting marine genre in Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts.  In 1915, she was in Topeka, Kansas. 

Her birth year has been listed several ways:  1883, 1885 and 1888.

Memberships included the National Association of Women Artists, Philadelphia Artists Alliance, Plastic Club, Ten Philadelphia Painters, and the North Shore Artist Association.

Among her exhibition venues were the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Kansas City Art Institute, National Association of Women Artists, Moore College of Art and Design Retrospective and The Ten Philadelphia Painters, known as The Ten.  This group, whose founding members had studied together in Philadelphia, began in 1917, a thirty year association of regular exhibitions.  Most of the members, like Coppedge, led unconventional lives.

Thomas Folk, The Pennsylvania Impressionists
David Michael Zellman, Three Hundred Years of American Art
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
Doris Dawdy, Artists of the American West

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born Decatur, IL, July 28, 1888; died 1951. Painter, specialized in landscapes and snow scenes. Lived in McPherson through childhood and high school. Studied at McPherson College and then the University of Kansas, Lawrence. Married Robert Coppedge, who became vice principal of Topeka School, 1904, and moved to Topeka the following summer. Coppedge then attended the Art Institute of Chicago from 1908-10 and the couple moved east where she studied at the Arts Student League with Vincent DuMond and William Merritt Chase, and then with 51 John F. Carlson at the Woodstock, NY Artists Colony. Following her acceptance to the annual exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1917, Coppedge studied with Daniel Garber there and then privately with Henry Snell. She was part of the Philadelphia Ten, a women artists’ group, from 1922-1935 and spent her summers at the New Hope, PA Art Colony from the 1920s-1940s.
H. O. Dean Prize, Artists of Kansas City and Vicinity, 1917; E. Shield Prize, 1918; Prize, Annual Exhibition of the Artists of Kansas City and Vicinity, 1920; honorable mention, National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, 1922; first prize, Plastic Club, 1924; Silver medal for Painting, Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1924; gold medal, Exposition of Women’s Achievement, Philadelphia 1932; honorable mention, National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, 1933.

Witte Museum, San Antonio, TX; Century Club, Philadelphia; Detroit Art Institute; Pennsylvania State Capitol; Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; American Embassy, Brazil; Benjamin West Museum, Swarthmore, PA.

Plastic Club, Philadelphia; Philadelphia Art Alliance; National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors; Fellowship Pennsylvania Fine Arts; ASL of NY; Ten Philadelphia Painters – group of women artists, formed in 1919, all 10 trained in Philadelphia; North Shore Art Association; Gloucester Society of Artists.

Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
Reinbach; Festival of Kansas Arts and Crafts. Catalog: Arts and Crafts of Kansas: an Exhibition held in Lawrence, Feb. 18-22, 1948 in the Community Building. Lawrence: World Co., 1948; Sain, Lydia. Kansas Artists, compiled by Lydia Sain from 1932 to 1948. Typed Manuscript, 1948.; Who’s Who in American Art. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1936- v.1=1936-37 v.3= 1941-42 v.2=1938-39 v.4=1940-47. 1, 2, 3, 4; Whittemore, Margaret. “Notes on Some Kansas Artists”, in Kansas Magazine, 1935. p.41-45.; Newlin, Gertrude Dix (Development of Art in Kansas. Typed Manuscript, 1951); American Art Annual. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1898-1947 12; International Studio (Dec. 1916); Kansas Teacher (Apr. 1928); Snow, Florence. “Kansas Art and Artists”, in Kansas Teacher Aug-Sept. 1927, p.18-19; Oct. 1927, p.10, 12; Nov. 1927, p.11-12; Dec. 1927, p.7-8; Jan. 1928, p. 14-15; Feb. 1928, p.20-21; Mar. 1928, p.10-12; Apr. 1928, p. 16-17; May 1928, p.14, 16; June-July 1928, p.13-14.; American Art Annual. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1898-194714/20/22/24/26; NMAA FILE; Who’s Who in American Art. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1936- v.1=1936-37 v.3= 1941-42 v.2=1938-39 v.4=1940-47. 1; Field; Collins, Jim, and Glenn B. Opitz, eds. Women Artists in America: 18th Century to the Present (1790-1980). Rev. and enl. ed. Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: Apollo, 1980.; Annual Exh. 1915, 1917, 1920-21; Shipp, Steve. American Art Colonies, 1850-1930: a Historical Guide to America’s Original Art Colonies and Their Artists. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996.; Fern Coppedge: a Forgotten Woman (Doylestown, PA: James Michener Arts Center, 1990); AskArt,, accessed Sept. 2, 2005; Dawdy 3: Dawdy, Doris Ostrander. Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary. Volume 3. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1985.
This and over 1,750 other biographies can be found in Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945) compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian at University of Kansas.

Biography from Edgartown Art Gallery:
Born in Decatur, Illinois, Fern Coppedge began art studies at the Art Institute of Chicago and then went to New York to study with William Merritt Chase at the Art Students League.  She also studied with John Carlson and Henry Snell and then attended classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

She settled in Pennsylvania, living both in Philadelphia and New Hope where she did many of the winter scenes for which she is known.  She had met Daniel Garber, a New Hope painter, at the Pennsylvania Academy, and she moved to New Hope in Bucks County in 1920. 

For 30 years, she traveled between there and her studio in Philadelphia. She also spent many summers painting harbor genre in Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts. She exhibited for many years with a group of women called the "Ten Philadelphia Painters."

Her style of Impressionism emphasized bright, contrasting colors, and she is sometimes compared to the Fauves and European post-impressionists.

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