Macomb 91.3fm - Galesburg 90.7fm Keokuk 89.5fm - Burlington 106.3fm
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Celebrating the life and work of Keokuk-born artist Laura Van Pappelendam

Laura Van Pappelendam sits in front of a canvas and paints outdoors in this vintage photograph.
Courtesy Photo
Keokuk Art Center
Laura Van Pappelendam was born in Keokuk on Feb. 10, 1883. She had a long teaching career at The Art Institute of Chicago and exhibited her work in Santa Fe alongside artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe and Mary Cassatt.

Thirteen of Van Pappelendam's paintings are on display through Feb. 26 in the Round Room Gallery at the Keokuk Public Library.

This month the Keokuk Art Center is showing a collection of oil paintings by one of southeast Iowa’s most celebrated artists.

Laura Van Pappelendam was born in Keokuk on Feb. 10, 1883, and she died on her birthday in Norwalk, California, in 1974.

In her exactly 91 years on earth, Van Pappelendam painted alongside the likes of Diego Rivera and George Bellows, and she exhibited her work with artists including Georgia O’Keeffe, Mary Cassatt, and John Singer Sargent.

“She knew a lot of the really popular artists of the time,” said Tom Seabold, executive director of the Keokuk Art Center.

Van Pappelendam also taught for 50 years at the Art Institute of Chicago.

“She’d gone there as a student and then from 1909 to 1959 she taught there,” Seabold said.

In the summers, Van Pappelendam would go to Santa Fe to paint.

“She had galleries there that would sell her work,” he said.

In late 2019, the Keokuk Art Center received a gift of around 100 pieces of Van Pappelendam’s artwork from Steve Scholl, one of the artist’s few remaining relatives, and his wife, Barbara, of San Clemente, California.

Seabold said this included 24 framed paintings, 50 to 60 sketches, and a suitcase of linoleum block prints.

Thirteen of the paintings are on display through Feb. 26 in the Round Room Gallery at the Keokuk Public Library, 210 N. 5th St.

Van Pappelendam often painted her large impressionist landscapes outdoors.

While she used lots of color, she did not use a lot of paint, so bits of canvas show through.

Seabold said it’s an unusual technique.

“Most painters cover the canvas with paint at least once,” he said. “She did a really loose technique, which is pretty identifiable, and I think that’s probably what made her a popular artist at the time, because her style was kind of unique.”

Seabold said Van Pappelendam’s work evolved more in subject matter than in technique over the years.

In the 1950s, her paintings reflected her travels to the southwest, Mexico, and Ireland.

But earlier works show her roots along the river in southeast Iowa.

Though Van Pappelendam left Keokuk in 1904 to attend the Art Institute of Chicago, she returned over the years to visit her brother, Bernard, and other relatives.

Seabold said Van Pappelendam was prolific, and a couple other relatives have more of her work, which could lead to more exhibits in Keokuk in the future.

“We’ve even thought a little bit about reproducing some of the block prints,” Seabold said.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jane Carlson is TSPR's regional reporter.