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 Catherine (Koppe) Hinkle  (1926 - 1974)

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Lived/Active: Illinois/Michigan      Known for: painting, design, illustration

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Ad Code: 4
Catherine (Koppe) Hinkle
Interlude, 1951
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Kalamazoo Institute of Arts:
Catherine Hinkle (1926-1974) was a gifted painter, printmaker, and book designer who was born and raised in St. Joseph, MI. She studied at Kalamazoo College for two years, but her interest in art led her to Chicago, where she enrolled in the program at the Institute of Design in 1945. She received her B.A. in Visual Design in 1949. Under the guidance of instructors such as László Moholy-Nagy, Alexander Archipenko and Richard Koppe, Hinkle absorbed the tenets of modernism.

Shortly after graduating, Hinkle began to exhibit her work in both regional and national exhibitions. Her first solo exhibition in Chicago was reviewed favorably in the Chicago Tribune. Her paintings were richly colored, multi-layered canvases in a square format, with a grid-like incised surface. Although produced at the same time that Abstract Expressionism was emerging in New York, her abstract paintings exhibit an ordered, architectural structure that reveals her Bauhausian training. While the paintings are non-objective, she often chose titles and colors that referenced intangible aspects of life—Scintillation, Spring, Interlude, Altitude.

Hinkle wrote about her work:

"My paintings are not an attempt to capture or re-make visual reality, but rather, they are color experiences or interpretations of abstract qualities through color. The key to understanding my work is not to see what is painted, but rather to feel it."

Hinkle’s work continued to receive recognition in increasingly prominent venues. In the early 1950s, her work was included in three of the Momentum exhibitions in Chicago. The illustrious jurors for the 1953 Momentum, which included works by artists from 18 mid-continental states, were Adolph Gottlieb, Richard Lippold, and Ad Reinhardt. Of the 165 works selected independently by the three jurors, Catherine Hinkle was one of only four artists whose work was selected by all three of the jurors. In 1956, Hinkle was nominated as “New Talent in the USA” in the February issue of Art in America.

Hinkle began a career as a book designer, balancing her work as a fine artist with her work as a graphic designer. From 1951 to 1968, she worked as an assistant art director for the Chicago publishing firm, Scott, Foresman Company. She married in 1955. Her husband, the artist Richard Koppe (1916-1973), had been one of Hinkle’s teachers at the Institute of Design. Once they married, Catherine continued her work as a book designer, but she focused less on her own art, as she devoted more of her time to facilitating the artistic career of her husband.

In March of 1973, Richard Koppe died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Shortly after his death, Catherine Hinkle moved to Kalamazoo, where her parents and her sister were living. She focused on cataloging her husband’s work in preparation for giving it to the University of Illinois, where Koppe had been teaching. Her own health declined quickly. Within a year of her husband’s death, she herself died of a heart attack, shortly after her 48th birthday.

In 1979, a retrospective exhibition of Catherine Hinkle’s work was mounted at the University of Illinois, Chicago, where the Koppe and Hinkle archives are maintained. In the brochure for that exhibition, Eugene Dana noted that, had Hinkle continued painting, “we might now be recognizing a major American artist.”

Another exhibition recognizing her skillful use of color, sense of design, and confident aesthetic vision was mounted at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo, Michigan. "A Precious Artistic Moment: Paintings by Catherine Hinkle" (June 22 – September 22, 2013) was accompanied by a small catalogue.

Sources:

Archival materials collected by the artist’s sister, the late Marilyn Hinkle. Marilyn’s unpublished biographical tribute to her sister, A Precious Artistic Moment, was written in 1994.

Two of Hinkle’s student works are reproduced in Hans Wingler’s The Bauhaus (Cambridge, Mass. and London: The MIT Press, 1969), pp. 591, 600.

Eugene Dana, in The Chrysalis, from Student to Artist, exhibition brochure (Chicago: University of Illinois, 1979).

Submitted by Vicki C. Wright
Director of Collections and Exhibitions, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

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