Irma René Koen: An Artist Rediscovered


This exhibition features paintings by Rock Island native and distinguished artist of the 20th century, Irma René Koen (1883-1975). Koen’s legacy was largely forgotten until art historian Cynthia Wiedemann Empen, Ph.D., began a line of research which uncovered this intriguing local figure. Including over 40 paintings produced over the course of 70 years, the exhibition reflects Koen’s artistic journey as well as shifts in style and taste during the era. Her paintings range from light filled impressionist scenes of the Eastern seaboard to expressive oil paintings from her time in Mexico. 

Koen was active during a time of rapid change in American art. She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1903-1908 and at art colonies critical to the development of art in the country. During the 1920s and 1930s she was an active member of the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery (the precursor of the Figge Art Museum). Driven by ambition and an independent spirit, Koen was a professional artist at a time when women making a career in art were a rarity. In addition to an impressive run of exhibitions, awards and memberships, Koen travelled the world; working in France, England, Germany, North Africa and Asia. Koen eventually moved to Mexico where she lived and worked for over 30 years.

Many of Koen’s paintings are cherished family heirlooms held by private collectors with roots in the Quad Cities. This project would not have been possible without their generous loans to the Museum.

This exhibition will be on view September 30-December 31, 2017.


The exhibition was made possible by the support of Osherenko Young Foundation

Contributing sponsors include the William Butterworth Foundation, Rock Island Art Guild and Quad City International Airport. 

Media sponsor KWQC TV6



Irma René Koen, All on a Summer’s Day, 1920s, oil on canvas, City of Davenport Art Collection, Museum purchase: Friends of Art Acquisition Fund, 1929.407


Companion Events
Thursday, October 5

5:30 pm Opening Reception
7 pm Curator Talk

Thursday, October 19
5:30 pm Social Hour
7 pm Art, Architecture and the Deere Family Story

Offsite events
Friday, September 15
Deere-Wiman House
817 11th Avenue, Moline, Illinois
3 pm The “New Woman” in Illinois, 1910-1945

Wednesday, October 11
Rock Island Public Library
401 19th Street, Rock Island, Illinois
6 pm “An Interesting Rock Island Girl”: The Modern Art and Life of Irma René Koen