Paulette van Roekens

Artist Biography

A Pennyslvania impressionist known for her brightly colored landscapes and urban scenes, as well as her successful teaching career at Philadelphia’s Moore College of Art & Design.

By Chelsea DeLay

I. Biography
II. Chronology
III. Collections
IV. Exhibitions
V. Memberships
VI. Suggested Resources

I. Biography

Paulette Victorine Jeanne van Roekens was born on January 1, 1896, about fifty miles outside of Paris in the French town of Chateau-Thierry. Her family immigrated to the United States shortly after her birth and settled in Glenside, Pennsylvania. In 1915, van Roekens enrolled as a student at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, where her raw talent as a skilled painter was awarded with the school’s John Sartain Fellowship. She continued her studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where her work was first exhibited in 1918, and also at the Graphic Sketch Club, where she accepted a teaching position in 1920. In 1923, van Roekens accepted a faculty posititon at the Moore College of Art & Design, where she met and subsequently married the painter Arthur Meltzer. The two taught alongside one another for thirty-eight years, and van Roekens was regarded as an influential professor of painting and drawing until her retirement in 1961. She continued painting for another twenty-seven years until her death, at age ninety-two on January 11, in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania.

Throughout her career, van Roekens painted with an impressionist approach: her early work consisted mainly of still lifes and street scenes and are considered important examples of her natural artistic ability. Later in her career, she became transfixed with crowds partaking in leisurely pursuits and produced vibrant depictions of figures enjoying picnics, circuses, and beaches which demonstrated a mature interest in color and movement. Van Roekens’s work was exhibited at numerous instutions throughout the 1920s and 1930s, including The Art Institute of Chicago, Carnegie Institute, Corcoran Gallery of Art, National Academy of Design, Newport Art Association, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and The Philadelphia Sketch Club. Today, examples of her work are considered significant representations of American Impressionism and are included in the permanent collections of the Palmer Museum of Art at The Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Reading Public Museum, and Woodmere Art Museum.

II. Chronology

1896 Born in Chateau-Thierry France; van Roekens family immigrates to the United States shortly after her birth
1915 Enrolls at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women
1916 Receives the John Sartain Fellowship at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women
1918 First exhibition of work at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
1920–27 Accepts a position teaching painting and drawing at the Graphic Sketch Club
1923–61 Teaches painting and drawing at the Moore College of Art & Design
1927 Marries Arthur Meltzer, settles in Glenside, Pennsylvania
1928 Receives Fellowship award from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
1961 Retires from the Moore College of Art & Design
1988 Passes away at the age of ninety-two on January 11, in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania

III. Collections

Palmer Museum of Art at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park,
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Philadelphia Sketch Club, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Reading Public Museum, Pennsylvania
Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

IV. Exhibitions

Boston Art Club, Massachusetts
Delaware Bookshop, Pennsylvania
Mint Museum, North Carolina
Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey
Mystic Art Association, Connecticut
National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, New York; prize
Newport Art Association, Rhode Island
Philadelphia Art Alliance, Pennsylvania; solo exhibition
Philadelphia Art Club, Pennsylvania

1918–34, 1937–9 The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Pennsylvania
1920 The Philadelphia Plastic Club, Pennsylvania; gold medal
1921, 1923, 1925, 1927–30 The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois
1921, 1923 The Art Alliance of America, Pennsylvania
1922–24 Carnegie Museum of Art, Pennsylvania
1923 Philadelphia Sketch Club, Pennsylvania; gold medal
Concord Art Association, Massachusetts
National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, New York; first honorable mention
1921–43 Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C.; 9 times
1930 Columbus Gallery of Fine Art, Ohio
1946, 1956 Woodmere Art Museum, Pennsylvania
1960 Newman’s Gallery, Pennsylvania
1961 Moore College of Art & Design, Pennsylvania; retrospective

V. Memberships

The Art Alliance of America
National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors

VI. Suggested Resources

Falk, Peter Hastings. Who Was Who in American Art, 1564–1975: 400 Years of Artists in America. vol. III, P–Z. Madison, Connecticut: Sound View Press, 1999.
Peterson, Brian H. Pennsylvania Impressionism. Doylestown, Pennsylvania: James A. Michener Art Museum and University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.

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