The Life & Art of Irma René Koen

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n072902 chicago daily news irma kohn photo march 1921, DN-0072902, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum edit

Irma Kohn (Irma René Koen) in 1921, Chicago Daily News archive photograph,
American Memory digital collection, Library of Congress, DN-0072902,
Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum. (detail images of harbor scene and watercolor, courtesy of private collection)


The painter Irma René Koen (neé Irma Julia Kohn) was born in Rock Island, IL (b. October 8, 1884-d. July 16, 1975). She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago with prominent landscape painter Charles Francis Browne (1859-1920) and with leading Danish-American portraitist John Christen Johansen (1876–1964).  Koen also spent summers painting in Massachusetts and Maine, most notably with the New Hope Circle Impressionists William Langson Lathrop (1859-1938) and the eminent teacher Henry Bayley Snell (1858-1943) at the Boothbay Harbor summer art colony and school in Maine. Koen painted here in Illinois, and briefly in California and New Mexico, as well as along the East Coast, and abroad in England (St. Ives, Cornwall, art colony), France, Africa, Asia, and Mexico, among other locales. She exhibited her vivid oil paintings, watercolors, and plein-air gouache landscape and genre scenes nationally and internationally at galleries and museums in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, and in Paris and Mexico. This website is devoted Koen’s life and art.

Irma in the News

Irma René Koen exhibited and signed her paintings as “Irma Kohn” [prior to ca. 1926/27] and as “Irma Rene Koen” [after ca. 1926/27]. She also signed some works created in France and Africa as “Irma Roen” (sic) from 1923-24 which she exhibited in 1925 (Chicago & Dallas).
Her parents were Louis Kohn and Regina “Rena” Mosenfelder Kohn (Rock Island, IL).
Irma died on July 16, 1975.

Irma René Koen
“Gloucester in Autumn”
Oil on canvas, circa 1930 (approx. 36 x 40 in.)
Donated in memory of her father Louis Kohn to
Rock Island Public Library collection (IL) in 1943


~ Cynthia Wiedemann Empen, PhD
Independent Art Historian (American art and 19th-century visual culture)

© Copyright Cynthia Wiedemann Empen, compiled research and essay/text content