Born in Elgin, Illinois on September 11, 1902, Kenneth George Shopen was the son of a watchmaker. He began as a staff writer for the Elgin Daily News in 1920 but a year later he enrolled at the University of Illinois as an English major. He graduated in 1925 and then entered the School of the University of Illinois on a full-time scholarship. After graduation Shopen was hired as a part-time art teacher at Chicago’s Latin School for Boys. This led to another position at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1931 where he remained for the next fourteen years. He was active in the Art Institute’s annual exhibitions between 1931 and 1949. Also in the 1930s he took part in various groups dedicated to the art of etching and he exhibited watercolors at the Brooklyn Museum and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In 1931, 1941 and 1943 Shopen showed his works at the Carnegie Institute’s international exhibitions.
The U.S. War Department hired Shopen as an artist and teacher in June of 1945 in France and Germany. Naturally he was able to tour the major art centers in Europe, including Paris, Munich and Vienna where he could see old and new masters first-hand. Later Shopen became associate professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago, where he chaired various committees on grants and scholarships, curricula, and others. He was given numerous one-man shows in the Chicago area. In the summer Shopen taught at Dartmouth College and lectured at Vassar College. During the early years of television Shopen appeared on the “Impact” program, discussing the latest developments in art. In addition, Kenneth Shopen served as art critic for the Chicago Daily News (up to 1956). He retired to Norwich, Vermont where he died on 13 November 13, 1967.
Submitted by Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D.