Artist Biography

Paulette van Roekens

(1896 - 1988)

Table of Contents

    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

    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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