This exhibition features paintings by Rock Island native and distinguished artist of the 20th century, Irma René Koen (1883-1975). Koen’s legacy was largely forgotten until art historian Cynthia Wiedemann Empen, Ph.D., began a line of research which uncovered this intriguing local figure. Including over 40 paintings produced over the course of 70 years, the exhibition reflects Koen’s artistic journey as well as shifts in style and taste during the era. Her paintings range from light filled impressionist scenes of the Eastern seaboard to expressive oil paintings from her time in Mexico.
Koen was active during a time of rapid change in American art. She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1903-1908 and at art colonies critical to the development of art in the country. During the 1920s and 1930s she was an active member of the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery (the precursor of the Figge Art Museum). Driven by ambition and an independent spirit, Koen was a professional artist at a time when women making a career in art were a rarity. In addition to an impressive run of exhibitions, awards and memberships, Koen travelled the world; working in France, England, Germany, North Africa and Asia. Koen eventually moved to Mexico where she lived and worked for over 30 years.