Theodora Barbara Makielski (1890-1979)
Theodora “Teddy” Doktor was born in Poland in 1890 and worked as a cigar roller and legal secretary prior to marrying Joseph Jacob Makielski, Sr. in South Bend, IN in 1916. Through the encouragement of her husband she attended the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. Her mentor and friend was Emil Jacques, head of the art department at the University of Notre Dame. George Ames Aldrich was also a mentor and friend of Theodora. After extensive study and painting throughout Europe, in 1918 Aldrich arrived in Chicago and became involved with the South Bend art scene during the 1920s. The Indiana dune country at the southern end of Lake Michigan was a popular subject for Chicago's painters of the time.
Teddy was a founding member of the Northern Indiana Artists in 1942 and the St. Joseph Valley Watercolor Society. Theodora and her husband Joseph owned the Makielski Art Shop at 117 North Main Street in South Bend, Indiana and under Teddy’s tutelage the shop became the first meeting place for the Northern Indiana Artists and the gathering place for local aspiring artists.
Her bold brush work together with the bright and colorful palette of her landscapes and floral still lifes reflect a style influenced by regional impressionists of the period. These influences undoubtedly included the work of the Hoosier Group and that of her brother-in-law, Leon Makielski, who studied and exhibited in Paris during the postimpressionist period 1908-1913, before returning to South Bend. Although not widely known as a muralist, she spent several weeks in 1949 living with the owners of a home located at Lake of the Woods in Bremen, Indiana while she painted landscape wall panels which still survive. Her grandson David Makielski of Edwardsburg, Michigan fondly recalls traveling with his grandmother Teddy to paint the sand dunes around Lake Michigan. Her painting of Warren Dunes was one of the works selected for the 1999 Makielski family retrospective exhibition in South Bend. She painted widely through out southwestern Michigan and northern Indiana and often traveled to the artist colony of Brown County, Indiana. Her paintings are often unsigned.
Teddy exhibited at the Northern Indiana Art Salon Patrons' Association where she won a major prize in 1947 for a floral still life and at the Hoosier Salon in 1940, 1941 and 1948. Retrospective exhibitions of her work were held in South Bend in 1991 and again in 1999 as part of the Makielski family tribute exhibition sponsored by the South Bend Historical Society. For the catalogue of her 1991 exhibition her artist friends wrote,
“Given a late start in the world of art, Theodora Makielski made up for lost time with consistency, loyalty and intense passion. She not only flourished as an artist but also as the ‘grand mere’ of the area’s aspiring artists. She inspired, prodded and scolded many a person to do their best work. In the midst of this she did not lose sight of her own endeavors. In her many landscapes and flower still-lifes, we can appreciate the sensitivity Theodora had for life.”
Personal Communication, president of the Northern Indiana Artists, South Bend, IN, 2008
Personal Communication, David Makielski, grandson of Theodora Makielski, Edwardsburg, MI, 2008
Personal Communication, St. Joseph County Public Library, South Bend, IN, 2008
South Bend Historical Society exhibition catalogue: The Makielski Family, An Expression of the American Dream, November 5, 1999 -- January 9, 2000. An exhibition of over 40 paintings by Leon Makielski together with 8 paintings by Theodora Makielski and paintings by Bronislaw and Stanislaw Makielski, including historical and personal narrative.
South Bend Tribune, June 27, 1982, Pioneer South Bend ‘Artist Colony’ Starting Fifth Decade
AskArt.com, biography of Leon Makielski, 2008
AskArt.com, biography of George Ames Aldrich, 2008
Judith Vale Newton and Carol Weiss: A Grand Tradition: The Art and Artists of the Hoosier Salon, 1925-1990. Published by the Hoosier Salon Patrons Association, Indianapolis, IN 1993
Submitted by W. Kent VanTyle based on communication with family and use of listed sources.