Chronology and Exhibitions

Select chronology sources: various newspaper archives including Rock Island Argus (IL), Daily Times (Davenport, IA), and Davenport Democrat and Leader (IA); Irma Koen family archives; and The Art Institute of Chicago exhibition catalogs (Museum Exhibition History digital archive, Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, AIC).

1883                 Born Irma Julia Kohn, October 8th, Rock Island, IL; parents Louis Kohn and Regina “Rena” Mosenfelder Kohn; younger sister Margo Kohn [Certification of Birth, Rock Island County & United States Census, Rock Island, IL, June 4, 1900]


Collections, Awards, & Memberships

Exhibitions (selected list) & Travel

1907                 Thirteenth Annual Exhibition of the Works of the Art Students’ League of Chicago, AIC, March

1908                 Fourteenth Annual Exhibition of the Works of the Art Students’ League of Chicago, AIC

1910                 Sixteenth Annual Exhibition of the Works of the Art Students’ League of Chicago, AIC, March 8–27; oil paintings “Afterglow over Pine Hill” & “Reflected Sunset” [village of Pine Hill, Ulster County, (Catskills) NY]

1911                 18th annual exhibition Art Students’ League of Chicago, AIC

1912                 19th annual exhibition Art Students’ League of Chicago, AIC, April

1912                 20th annual exhibition Art Students’ League of Chicago, AIC, December; six oil paintings

1913                 17th Annual Exhibition of Works by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity, AIC, Jan. 28–Feb. 21; “Towering Locusts”

1913                 3 paintings shown at Wm. H. Powell’s Art Gallery (Paintings by American Artists), 983 Sixth Avenue, New York City, November

1914                Eighteenth Annual Exhibition of the Society of Western Artists, March 4–31, Toledo Museum of Art, 2 paintings: “Corey’s Garden” and “Autumn Twilight” [exhibit also toured 1913/14: in St. Louis, November; Cincinnati, Nov.30-Dec. 24; Chicago, Dec. 31-Jan. 24; Indianapolis, Feb. 4-Mar. 1; Toledo, Mar. 7-31; and Louisville, April 7-30]

1914                 Spring, traveled to the Mediterranean, Italy, Germany, and France then visited  England in June through August, Snell Summer Class (in England when WWI declared)

1914                 A Collection of Water Colors from The Annual Exhibition of The New York Water Color Club, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY, December;  “In Zennor, Cornwall,” “In the Dyegy [Digey], St. Ives, England,” & “In Chester Cathedral”

1915                 19th annual exhibit, Art Students’ League of Chicago, AIC

1915                 Traveled to art colony at Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA; attended Carmel Summer School of Art July 7-August 31 and awarded student exhibition prize

1915                 Visited and exhibited in (Department of Fine Arts) Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco; paintings “Street in Stratford-on-Avon” & “St. Ives: Lighthouse on the Pier”

1915                 Tri-City Art League group exhibit, paintings by Kohn, with Julius Hoftrup, Armand Wargny, Frank Weisbrook, and sculpture by Ben Cable at Davenport Public Library (IA), Nov. 24–Dec. 11

1916                 Twentieth Annual Exhibition, Artists of Chicago and Vicinity, AIC, Feb. 8–March 5; “Alvarado Street, Monterey;” “Old custom-house, Monterey,” watercolor; “Mission at Carmel-by-the-Sea,” watercolor; “Old Street, Monterey, California,” watercolor; & “The Zone, Panama-Pacific Exposition”

1916                 49th Annual Exhibition of the American Water Color Society, Spring 1916

1916                 An Exhibition of Selected Water Colors and Miniatures by American Artists, City Art Museum, St. Louis, June 18, “Base of the Tower of Jewels” and  “Italian Court, Panama-Pacific Exposition,” “Rotary Exhibition” of the 49th Annual Exhibition of the American Water Color Society, Spring 1916

1916                 Traveling group exhibition, 52 oil paintings from AIC, Des Moines; “Washday at St. Ives”

1916                 Traveled to Lancaster County, PA, Autumn

1917                 Annual exhibition of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, Transit Building, NYC, February

1917                 Twenty-first Annual Exhibition, Artists of Chicago and Vicinity, AIC, Feb.-Mar.; 5 watercolors and 2 oils, scenes of Pennsylvania

1917                 Member of Artists’ Guild in Chicago

1917                 Traveled to art colony, Gloucester, MA, Summer

1917                 Tri-City Art League exhibition of Kohn oil paintings with Mr. W.P. Welsh of Chicago, Davenport Public Library (IA), November

1917                 28th Annual Exhibition New York Water Color Club, November, “Wonson’s Wharf” [Gloucester, MA]; “The Guinea Docks”; “Publicover’s Landing”; “Friday Morning”; “On Main Street, Gloucester” [Worcester Art Museum sells “Publicover’s Landing” in 1917-18]

1917–18            Thirteenth Annual Exhibition of American Oil Paintings and Sculpture, AIC, Nov. 8–Jan. 2; “Fête Day, 1917”; “Moonlight” & “To Portuguese Hill, Gloucester (other exhibited artists: Childe Hassam and William Merritt Chase)

1918                 Artists’ Guild exhibition, Chicago; honorable mention for “Sunshine and Shadow”

1918                 3rd Annual Exhibit of Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings, North Shore artists group exhibit, Gallery on the Moors, East Gloucester (MA), Aug. 15–Sept. 5, with Jane Peterson, Henry B. Snell, and others

1918                 Exhibits at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; “The Ferry Wharf” and “Fête Day, 1917”; also exhibits at PAFA in 1928

1918                 “Fête Day, 1917” painting entered PAFA collection

1918                 First Exhibition of Oil Paintings by Illinois Artists, Peoria Society of Allied Arts, Peoria (IL), Nov. 11–22; Irma awarded a medal

1918                 Sixteenth Annual Philadelphia Water Color Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Nov. 10–Dec. 15: “The Guinea Docks,” opaque watercolor

1919                 National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors exhibit, National Academy of Design, NYC, February, “Late Twilight”; also National Academy of Design exhibits in 1922 & 1926

1918/19            Toledo Museum of Art (OH) acquired “The Ferry Wharf”

1919                 34th Annual Exhibition of the Art Association of Indianapolis, Jan. 19-Mar. 2, with Childe Hassam, Robert Henri, & others

1920                 Gallery on the Moors exhibit, East Gloucester, MA, August, “The Garden by the Sea”

1920                 24th Annual Exhibit of Artists of Chicago and Vicinity, AIC, awarded “Englewood Woman’s Club Prize” for a group of paintings

1920                 The Thirty-Second Annual Exhibition of Water Colors, Pastels and Miniatures by American Artists, AIC, May 11–June 6; “Fifth Avenue, Rock Island, Illinois,” “House On The Moors” & “Street Fair”

1920                 33rd Annual Exhibition of American Oil Paintings and Sculpture, AIC, Nov. 4–Dec. 12; “A Little Street”

1921                 Tri-City Art League exhibit, December, Rock Island Public Library (IL)

1921                 Third Annual Exhibition of Paintings by Illinois Artists, Rock Island (IL)

1921                 Group exhibition [including John Sloan] at Grace Horne’s Gloucester (MA) tea room and gallery, Summer

1921                 25th Chicago Artists’ annual exhibit, AIC

1921-22           8th Biennial Exhibition – Oil paintings by Contemporary American Artists, Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C., Dec. 17–Jan.22 [exhibited with Lowell Birge Harrison, John Sloan and Edward Redfield–more than 200 leading American artists represented]

1921-22           Joins “A Painter Group of the Middle West” (formed September 1921) and exhibits first at Des Moines Public Library (Sept. 1921), then tours to Cedar Rapids Library, Omaha, [Sioux City?], Kansas City Art Institute, and Newhouse Gallery in St. Louis (1922). Nineteen members from St. Louis, Chicago, Grand Rapids and elsewhere included: Karl Krafft (acting Secretary), Pauline Palmer, Wayman Adams, Alice Schille, John Noble, Frederick Grant, and others

1921-22            “Better Homes Institute” traveling group exhibition, organized by AIC, Emporia (KS), Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts (NY), and other venues; “The Fog Lift”

1922                 26th Annual Exhibition by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity, AIC

1922                 Solo exhibit of paintings, Moline Public Library (IL)

1922                 Carson Pirie Scott & Co. exhibit of watercolors and paintings of Maine coast

1922                 31st Annual Exhibition of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, Anderson Galleries, NY, April; “From Hill to Hill”

1922                 Summer travel to Boothbay Harbor, Maine

1922                 Member of jury, Fourth Annual Exhibition of Paintings by Illinois artists, Peoria (IL), November

1923                 May 3rd, travels to France and spends summer painting in Brittany and port city/artist colony of Concarneau, begins to sign paintings “Irma Roen [sic]”

1923                 Opened a studio in Paris [by November] and exhibited large Boothbay Harbor oil “To the Sea” [aka “Out to Sea”] in the Paris Salon D’Automne

1924                 Paris Salon, spring, April 30 to June 30, 1924, Grand Palais des Beaux Arts, Societé Nationale des Beaux Arts annual exhibition [National School of Fine Arts], all 4 paintings “hung on the line”: two oils #1094 “October […]” and #1095 [title?], and two watercolors #2597 “The Yellow Tail” and #2598 “Market at Concarneau”

1924                 Spring and Summer, traveled to North Africa, visiting Tunisia and Algeria, spent two months in Kairouan, Tunisia

1924                 Returns in late July from France and Africa; spends late summer and autumn at parents’ summer camp cottage on the Rock River in Rock Island (IL), creating “small sketchy pictures” with impressions of high cloud effects, meadows and the river

1924                 Tri-City Art League exhibition, Nov. 26-Dec. 3, at Tri-City Art League studios, Old Masonic Temple, Davenport (IA); paintings from trip abroad: “In the Port”; “When the Fishing Fleet Puts to Sea”; “The Red Sail”; along with more than 13 gouache water colors depicting scenes in Brittany, Kairouan, and Tunis including “A Street in Kairouan,” “The Gate of the City,” “The Porte de Tunis”

1925                 Lecture on African travels to Rock Island D.A.R., home of Mrs. F.C. Denkmann

1925                 Tri-City Art League exhibition, Old Masonic Temple, Davenport, IA, March,  with multiple artists

1925                 Group exhibition, Dunbar Galleries, Chicago; “Gates of City of Kairovan” [sic] [listed as “Irma Roen” (sic)]

1925                 The Fifth International Water Color Exhibition, AIC, May 1-June 4, [listed as “Irma Roen” (sic)]; five watercolors — three landscapes (Concarneau, Paris, Ville Close) & two landscapes of Africa

1925                 Solo exhibition, Hostetler Studios, Davenport (IA), May 30–June 3, sketches and small oils of France and Algiers

1925                 Summer, travels to Rockport, MA, art colony

1925                 Official Catalogue: Art Department State Fair of Texas: Twentieth Annual Loan Collection of American Paintings, exhibited with National Society of Women Painters as “Irma Roen [sic],” Dallas (TX), Oct. 10-25, 1925; “The Harbor–Concarean [sic]” [Concarneau, France]; selection of “modern American art” from the “best galleries and studios in this country”

1926                 Changes professional name to Irma René Koen

1926                 Des Moines Public Library exhibit with Olive Rush, Des Moines Association of Fine Arts, Jan. 1-31; [listed as “Miss René Koen”]

1926                 Solo watercolor exhibition, Davenport Municipal Art Gallery (IA), February; local scenic views and summer scenes from east [1925], as well as Brittany, Paris, Tunis and Algiers [exhibits as “Irma Kohn”]

1926                Watercolor and pastel exhibition, National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, March; first honorable mention for landscapes of Nefta oasis, Illinois farms and other locales

1926                 Decorative Painting and Sculpture by National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, The Brooklyn Museum, April 17-May 23; landscape paintings [“Irma Rene Koen”]

1926                 Oshkosh Public Museum (WI), July, exhibit of seven old world watercolors [“Irma Rene Koen”]

1926                 American Artists collection, Sesquicentennial exhibition, Philadelphia, summer; three watercolors: “The Red Silo” [scene near Milan, IL], “The Caid’s House, Tunis” and “Montmartre, Paris”

1926                  July–September, spent 3 months in Canada and mostly in Boothbay Harbor (ME)

1926                 First Art Exhibition by Members of the Illinois Fine Arts Academy, Illinois State Museum, Springfield, November; “The Last Glow” [listed as “Erma Rene Koen” (sic)]

1926                 Chicago Galleries Association group exhibition, Oct. 25-Nov. 6; marine scenes and travel sketches [“Irma Rene Koen”]

1927                 36th annual exhibition, National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, American Fine Arts Building, NYC, Feb. 16-March 6 [“Irma Rene Koen”]

1927                 First Exhibition of The Illinois Women Painters, Illinois Women’s Athletic Club, Chicago, Mar. 22-April 3; “The Shoreline” and “The Hushed Hour”

1927                 The Seventh International Exhibition Water Colors, Pastels, Drawings, Miniatures, AIC, April 28–May 29; “Market, Quebec, 1927” (gouache on paper) and “New England Evening” [exhibits as “Irma Rene Koen”]

1927                 Davenport Municipal Art Gallery (IA) exhibition featuring Koen’s oils and watercolors accompanying the great biennial convention of the Iowa Federation of Women’s Clubs, May

1927                 June 5th Irma hosts reception at her home for visiting artists in Illinois Academy of Fine Arts exhibit held at the Rock Island Public Library

1927                 Chicago Galleries Association Fourth Semi-Annual Exhibition of its Members, $250 prize to “The Port” by “Irma R. Koen”

1927                 Austin, Oak Park and River Forest Art League exhibition, Oak Park (IL)

1927                 Studied in Boothbay Harbor (ME), Snell Summer Class/Henry B. Snell

1927                 Minnesota State Fair, Fine Art Exhibition: “Market, Quebec”

1927                 Rock Island Public Library exhibition; three watercolors: “The Red Silo” [scene near Milan, IL], “The Caid’s House, Tunis” and “Montmartre, Paris”

1928                 Watercolor exhibition, New York Water Color Club and American Water Color Society, Fine Arts Building, January

1928                 February, Irma spent a month’s visit in Chicago with friends

1928                 Second Exhibition of The Illinois Women Painters, Illinois Women’s Athletic Club, Chicago, Feb. 13-17; “All on a Summer’s Day” (currently Figge Art Museum collection)

1928                 Annual exhibition, Artists of Chicago and Vicinity, AIC, Feb.-March; “Bridge Street”; “Clear Day, Maine”; “Sea, Sky and Ships”; “The Bridge to Town”; and “The Edge of Town”

1928                 Group exhibition, Annual Exhibition by the Professional Members, Arts Club of Chicago, April 15–May 5

1928                 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts exhibition; “The Road that Turns”

1928                 Essay published in Portraits by Painter Paul Trebilcock; interview by Koen reprinted from Christian Science Monitor

1928                 Travels to Boothbay Harbor (ME) and New Hope (PA) artist colonies

1929                 Koen in Chicago for the year; won honors at “National Painters’ exhibit,” NYC

1929                 Solo exhibition, Winter, Chicago Galleries Association; Boothbay Harbor scenes

1929                 Thirty Third Annual Exhibition by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity, AIC, Feb. 7-March 10; 2 paintings “A Village in Maine” and “White Wings,” which wins The Fine Arts Building Purchase Prize

1929                 Exhibition at Kohler Recreation Hall (WI), organized by Chicago Galleries Association collection, sponsored by Kohler Woman’s Club art committee for Better Homes week, May: “The Mill,” painting purchased by students of the Kohler school

1929                 Davenport Municipal Art Gallery Board of Trustees purchases “All on a Summer’s Day” [Figge Art Museum]

1929                 Summer, Traveled to New Mexico [Taos] (documented visit to New Mexico in July 1929 with intended travel to West Coast after [Monterey, CA])

1930                 Traveling exhibition of watercolors and paintings (members of Chicago Galleries Association), Memorial Union, University of Wisconsin, Madison

1930                 Exhibition with Myrtle Holm Smith, Grace Horne’s Galleries, Boston, December; paintings [artist M. Holm Smith (Waban, MA) became president, The Board of Directors of the Mother Church, First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1945-46]

1932                 Thirty-Sixth Annual Exhibition by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity, AIC, Jan. 28-Mar. 20

1932                 “February Group,” exhibition of works by Irma Rene Koen, Charles P. Killgore, Orrin A. White, Oscar E. Berninghaus, Grant Wood, and Dixie Selden, Chicago Galleries Association, February [travels to Davenport, IA]

1932                 March, artist Grant Wood visited Irma’s Rock Island home “Mille Fleurs”

1932                 Christian Science Monitor (March 26), Koen wrote article on Regionalist painter Grant Wood, the earliest testimonial of Wood stating his value of Midwestern material culture

1932                 Spent autumn in Doylestown, PA (October-December)

1932/33         Returned to Rock Island

1933                 Exhibition, James Spencer Dickerson Art Gallery (campus library), Frances Shimer Junior College, Mt. Carroll (IL)

1933                 Exhibition of Art by Members of the Association of Chicago Painters and Sculptors, A Century of Progress World Exposition, Gibson Lounge, Home Planning Hall, Chicago, painting “The River”; also exhibits a flower painting, Horticultural Building at Century of Progress World Exposition

1934               “Two-Man Show,” Koen and Marie M. Struve, Arts Club exhibit, galleries in Hickey Building, Davenport (IA), January

1934                 Group exhibition of works by Thomas Hall, Irma Rene Koen, Alfred J. Wands, and Ingeborg Christiansen, Chicago Galleries Association, February

1935                 Group exhibition, Chicago Galleries Association, February, series of Rock Island sunsets and impressions of “last summer’s Fair”

1935                 Traveling group exhibition, organized by Chicago Galleries Association, Lauren Rogers’ Library and Museum, Laurel (MS), April

1940                 First Annual “Art and Artists Along the Mississippi” Exhibition, Davenport Municipal Art Gallery (IA); painting “From My Studio Window”

1940                 Annual Exhibition John H. Vanderpoel Art Association, Vanderpoel Art Gallery, Ridge Park Fieldhouse, Chicago

1941               14th Annual Quad-City Artists Exhibition, Davenport Municipal Art Gallery; paintings “Pennsylvania Village” and “Hillside in East Moline” (won the sweepstakes award)

1943-44            Sold parents’ home in Dec. 1943. Auctioned 30 paintings [Nov. 1943]. Traveled to Mexico in February 1944 with her sister Margo for two months. Moved to San Miguel de Allende circa 1944,  lived along Lake Chapala in Ajijic, and in Pátzcuaro, Mazatlan, and established permanent residency. Later moved to Cuernavaca ca. 1947/48, and in 1957 established a permanent home and studio in Cuernavaca.

1944-70s     Traveled and painted throughout Mexico [Vera Cruz, Oaxaca, Acapulco], and in Central America [Guatemala, Lake Atitlan], Spain, Japan, Hong Kong, Kashmir, Nepal, and Iran; changed style to palette knife painting; continued to exhibit in Pátzcuaro, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City, and Cuernavaca, also in Illinois, and Iowa.

1946               Illinois State Museum Art Gallery, traveling group exhibit from Chicago Galleries Association, summer; oil painting “Mexican Charm”

1947                 Gran Exposicion de Pinturas de Irma Rene Koen, Circulo de Bellas Artes de Mexico, Mexico D.F., Oct. 11-24; exhibit later toured to Chicago Galleries Association, Davenport Municipal Art Gallery (1948), Parsons College (Fairfield, IA, 1949)

1948                 Visits United States: California, Iowa and Illinois

1949                 Solo exhibition, Des Moines Art Center, March, 26 paintings, scenes of Mexico and Latin America; solo show also shown at Chicago Galleries association [previously at the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery]. “Market at Etla” painting purchased by an anonymous donor for the Des Moines Art Center’s permanent collection.

1951                 Chicago Galleries Association exhibition, scenes of Mexico

1952                 Fourteenth Annual Fine Arts Festival: Contemporary Art in Iowa, State University of Iowa, June 15-August 1; “Market at Etla” [Oaxaca]

1956                 Chicago Galleries Association exhibition, scenes of Mexico

1956                 Exposicion de pintura, Galeria de Arte Mexicano, Mexico City [Gallery of Mexican Art, No. 18 Milan Street, director, Miss Ines Amor, principal year-round dealer in modern Mexican art, aka known as the Ines Amor Gallery], May

1956                 Watercolors of Mexico, solo exhibition, Davenport Municipal Gallery of Art, December 9-30

1962                 Traveled to Hong Kong, India, Nepal, Iran, Thailand, Cambodia (August to December)

Dec. 1962 or later      Expocition of Oriental Watercolors by Irma Rene Koen, Quinta La Escondida Privada del Mirador, Mexico, Dec. 6-8, scenes of Hong Kong, Shinsagar (sic), India, Persia, Nepal, etc.

1968                  Traveled to Chicago

1968                  Landscapes and Markets by Irma Rene Koen, Galeria de Edith Quijano, Mexico City, Mexico, March; 20 paintings

1969                  Traveled to Los Angeles, visited family

1969                  Exposición de óleos presentada por el gobierno del Estado de Morelos, Palacio de Cortés, Nov. 20-Dec. 9, Cuernavaca

1973                 Galería de Arte Van Gelder, solo show, “Works of Art by Irma Rene Koen,” opening Dec. 15 [director, Daniel B. Van Gelder]; her last known exhibition

1975                  Died, Cuernavaca, Mexico, July 16th [Irma Koen family archives]

1995                  City Views, Print exhibition, Des Moines Art Center (IA); watercolor by Irma Rene Koen exhibited

2003                  Our Flag, Permanent collection exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Irma Kohn’s “Fête Day, 1917” painting exhibited

2015                  Quad Cities Jewish Heritage, Putnam Museum exhibition, Davenport (IA); a Koen oil painting exhibited

2017                 Irma René Koen: An Artist Rediscovered, Figge Art Museum (Davenport, IA), September 30-December 31, 2017; featuring 42 works of art, co-curated by Cynthia Wiedemann Empen and Vanessa Sage; with companion catalog, news articles, podcasts and lectures

2018                 Irma René Koen article, “The Art of Grant Wood,” Christian Science Monitor (March 26, 1932) cited in Grant Wood retrospective exhibition catalog, Whitney Museum (NY): p. 36, n.26 and n.33, Barbara Haskell essay, “Grant Wood Through the Past, Darkly,” in Barbara Haskell, Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables (Yale University Press, 2018)

2018                 “Illinois Women Artists, Part 32: Irma René Koen Artist, Traveler, and Arts Advocate,” biographical essay in Illinois Heritage (January-February 2018)


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