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 Nellie Augusta Knopf  (1875 - 1962)

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Lived/Active: Illinois/California/Michigan      Known for: landscape and still life painting

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Ad Code: 3
Nellie Augusta Knopf
from Auction House Records.
Day at the Beach
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Nellie Knopf became a painter of mountain, pueblos, seascapes, and other outdoor scenes that brought her international recognition.

She graduated with honors from the Art Institute of Chicago, a student of John Vanderpoel and Frederick Freer.   For 43 years she taught and was Director of Art at Illinois Woman's College, later MacMurray College, in Jacksonville, Illinois.  She managed to combine effective teaching with a successful painting career of her own.

She sketched every summer from 1910 to 1917 with Charles Woodbury in Ogunguit, Maine, and beginning 1923, she traveled widely in the West during summers and sabbaticals, to paint the landscapes and pueblos of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, California, etc.  She was deaf but overcame that handicap to do what was described as "miles of paintings".

The following information, courtesy Sidney Hamper, is abstracted from a letter from Nellie A. Knopf, dated Nov. 9, 1915 to the John H. Vanderpoel Art Association.  "...I was born in Chicago-my parents themselves being early Chicagoans.  I graduated from the Chicago Art Institute in 1900-with honors.  Taught one year in it's Saturday classes.  Since 1900 I have been director of the School of Fine Arts of the Illinois Woman's College at Jacksonville, Illinois.  Have studied one summer with Chas, Francis Browne and six summers in the school of Chas H. Woodbury in Ogunquit, Maine.  Have exhibited the last six or seven years with Chicago artists - also with the Eastern Society of Artists-and with the large All American Contemporary Artists exhibition of oil painting in Chicago (1914).  Have also had an exhibition of pictures with American Water Color Society-Chicago and elsewhere..."

Doris Dawdy, Artists of the American West
A bulletin to AskART from Sidney Hamper, President, Vanderpoel Art Association, Chicago

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Chicago, Illionis on Sept. 19, 1875, Knopf grew up in Chicago and studied art at the Art Institute.  After graduating with honors in 1900, she taught art at Illinois Woman's College in Jackson for 43 years. 

During the summers 1910 to 1917 she studied in Maine with Charles Woodbury.  Beginning in 1921 her summers and holidays were spent on painting trips to the West.  She sketched in Wyoming, Arizona, Montana, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and California. 

Never married, she died in Lansing, Michigan on April 30, 1962.  Her work includes pueblo scenes, western landscapes, and seascapes.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Woman Artist in the American West; Women Artists of the American West; Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers (Fielding, Mantle); Who's Who in American Art 1936-62; American Art Review, Jan. 1976.
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from David Cook Galleries:
Born in Chicago, Nellie Knopf attended the Art Institute of Chicago where she studied under John Vanderpoel and Frederick Free. She graduated in 1900 with honors. The same year, she took a teaching position at Illinois State Woman's College (later MacMurray College). She remained at the college for 43 years, eventually becoming the director of the art department. Only five feet tall and hard of hearing, she was a determined artist who never let her deafness interfere with her painting or teaching career.

Nellie did not find the Illinois landscape particularly inspiring and began spending her summers between 1910-1917 studying landscape painting with Charles Woodbury in Maine. By the early 1920's, she had discovered the Rocky Mountains, whose scenery enlivened her subject matter and she took a sabbatical to travel out west. In 1922, she spent time painting in New Mexico, and the following year she studied throughout the summer with Sven Birger Sandzén and John Fabian Carlson at the Broadmoor Academy in Colorado Springs.

Sandzén’s influence can be seen as she developed her own modernist style with bold colors, loose brush work and heavy impasto. Marguerite B. Williams of the Chicago Daily News noted, "Sandzén's influence can be seen in the almost masculine strength and vigor of Knopf's color and brushwork, although her work always retained an individual touch." In order to skirt any biases against female artists, Knopf began signing her works as "N.A.Knopf" in the early twenties.

In 1925, Nellie spent the summer in Glacier Park, Montana. Although she traveled extensively in Europe in the thirties, she did not find the way of life to her liking. When asked about her painting in Colorado, she responded, "to say ‘why’ it was painted is only to attempt to express in words the emotion that lies back of the impulse which impels the artist to express in visual terms - the beauty he has found in nature and so make it intelligible to others. The old stunted cypress growing among the rocks, set high against the beautifully patterned foothills, with Baldy and Cheyenne [mountains] beyond, and over it all the charm of the Colorado day, was true, a motif that held much delight."

Retiring from Illinois State in 1943, she continued her travels in the West and spent time in Mexico. Near the end of her life, Nellie triumphantly declared "I have done miles of paintings, some of them very good."

She died in Michigan in 1962, where she had moved to be near her nephew.

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Nellie Knopf is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Taos Pre 1940

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