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 Tunis Ponsen  (1891 - 1968)

About: Tunis Ponsen
 

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Lived/Active: Illinois      Known for: landscape, still life, portrait, marine

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BIOGRAPHY for Tunis Ponsen
Facts/Data
Birth
1891 (Wageningen, Holland)
 
Death
1968 (Chicago, Illinois)

Lived/Active
Illinois


Self portrait - Artist self-portrait
Copyright by Artist


Often Known For
landscape, still life, portrait, marine

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Dutch born painter, Tunis Ponsen, was highly prolific during his professional years, 1930 to 1967. His methods included oil paintings on canvas, watercolors, and an extremely limited number of single-color lithographs and linoleum block prints.

Ponsen painted images that captured his heart and now evoke for some viewers, emotions of nostalgia. From landscapes depicting the verdant rolling fields of western Michigan and eastern seaboard water scenes, to still lifes and florals, compelling portraits, and personal interior scenes, Ponsen's imagery conveys visually what may be the artist's diary of his life. Never married, his true loves were his painting, sister and niece.

Tunis Ponsen was born in 1891 in the Netherlands. He emigrated to the
United States in 1913 and first settled in Muskegon, Michigan where, at age 30,
he had his first solo exhibitions. Ponsen's success as a traditional painter strengthened in 1924 when he relocated to Chicago, where he painted until he slipped on the winter ice and complications from surgery resulted in his death in 1968.

Between 1924 when Ponsen entered the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and 1938, Ponsen's work was included in 34 important museum exhibitions. Critics regularly praised his work which found strong following at the Detroit Institute of Art, Toledo Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Flint Institute of Arts, Muskegon Museum of Art, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, among others.

At a 1938 solo exhibition of Ponsen's paintings at Chicago's Drake Hotel
it was observed that "there is a kind of Dutch honesty in a painting by
Tunis Ponsen. . . . Ponsen's paintings 'grow on you. At first they may
strike you as a trifle harsh, perhaps a bit too blunt. But go back to the
creations again and you will appreciate that while Ponsen's method is
conscientiously abrupt, it is far from crude. You begin to feel the
downright integrity of the artist. These paintings are not color poems,
mood symphonies or anything of the sort. This is prose, straightforward
and deliberate...shorn of all superlatives, done by a man well trained in
the grammar of art."

More recently the rediscovered Tunis Ponsen has been the focus of
considerable interest among collectors and scholars. A traveling
exhibition of 52 Ponsen paintings between 1994 and 1996 set attendance
records at seven midwest museums.

From the 1920s to 1967 Tunis Ponsen's paintings and watercolors were
included in hundreds of exhibitions and he won many awards and prizes.
Although he exhibited widely and sold many paintings during his lifetime,
at the time of his death in 1968 his niece, Angenita Morris, discovered
and inherited more than 1,000 paintings and watercolors from Ponsen's
studio. Those oil paintings, a few acrylics, and an unexpected collection of
woodblock prints and black and white lithographs have now been inherited
by the children of Angenita Morris.

Source:
Saper Galleries

----------------------------------------------------------------------
Active as a landscape painter in Chicago, Tunis Ponsen studied there at the Art Institute with George Oberteuffer and Karl Buehr. He was a member of the Chicago Painters and Sculptors, Chicago Gallery Association, and the Chicago Society of Artists.

Source: Treadway Toomey Galleries

Biography from Art Cellar Exchange:
Tunis Ponsen (1891-1968) Fishing Boats Riding at Anchor

The paintings of Tunis Ponsen are among the most underestimated works in the both academia and the art market. For 37 years Tunis Ponsen painted oils, watercolors, and drawings detailing his impressions and understanding of American life. Critically acclaimed during his lifetime, Ponsen was widely exhibited in Chicago and achieved a modicum of praise and financial success.

Beginning his sojourn as an artist relatively late at age 30, Ponsen had been in the United States only a brief period when he began to paint. He emigrated from his native Holland in 1913 and settled in Muskegon, Michigan where he began his new life as a professional house painter. It was during his 30th year, that a local patron of the arts helped Ponsen to have his first solo exhibition at the Hackley Gallery in Muskegon. Ponsen's success as a traditional painter strengthened in 1924 when he relocated to Chicago in order to attend the Art Institute. There he studied with Karl Buehr, George Oberteuffer, and Leon Kroll.

Ponsen continuously exhibited his work over the years, between 1924 and 1938; his work was included in 34 museum exhibitions. His work found a supportive audience in the Detroit Institute of Art, Toledo Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Flint Institute of Arts, Muskegon Museum of Art, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, among others. Throughout his career, critics favored him with positive commentary, such as Irwin St. John, critic for the Chicago Herald & Examiner, who stated

"[Mr. Ponsen] brings to his art the serious solidity of a Dutch Conception. He builds his foundations deep and true, and on them erects his painting - even though it be of a subject as transitory as a clouds or a sail flapping in the wind - with careful methodical structure, until the passing moment he has seized upon stand fixed for all time. This man takes what we used to call modernism, gets the good out of it, and makes it glorious."

In 1926, Ponsen, like many of his contemporaries, flocked to the colony in Gloucester, Mass. to capture the timeless wharves, boats, fisherman, and townships. There he studied from American Impressionist masters such as Charles Hawthorne and Richard Miller the art of plein-air. Ponsen was inspired by the harbor scenes he found there. "Wharfing and shipping seem to have a special fascination for the artist whose fishing boats riding at anchor look easily capable of sailing away to the fishing grounds and the day's haul."

One observer from a 1938 exhibition noted that "Ponsen's paintings' grow on you. At first they may strike you as a trifle harsh, perhaps a bit too blunt. But go back to the creations again and you will appreciate that while Ponsen's method is conscientiously abrupt, it is far from crude. You begin to feel the downright integrity of the artist. These paintings are not color poems, mood symphonies or anything of the sort. This is prose, straightforward and deliberate... shorn of all superlatives, done by a man well trained in the grammar of art."

Ponsen painted until his death in 1968. He settled in Chicago as a landscape painter and was a member of the Chicago Painters and Sculptors, Chicago Gallery Association, and the Chicago Society of Artists. While Ponsen's works are mostly associated with the impressionistic school, his careful use of bold color and sweeping brushstrokes are often reminiscent of another prestigious Dutch artist, Vincent Van Gogh. Tunis Ponsen is best known for his use of urban scenes, country landscapes, and harbor scenes.

A critic once said "He is never guilty of adding sugar and spice that might make a rich and popular pastry for rapid and eager consumption. Rather, his work is as substantial and wholesome as bread - and no more difficult to digest."

Source: "The Lost Paintings of Tunis Ponsen", Muskegon Musuem of Art, 1994.


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