Artist Spotlight: Ida Kohlmeyer (American, 1912-1997)

Photo by Judy Cooper, courtesy of Arthur Roger Gallery, New Orleans, LA, USA.

Photo by Judy Cooper, courtesy of Arthur Roger Gallery, New Orleans, LA, USA.

Born in New Orleans in 1912, Ida Kohlmeyer has been called one of the best Abstract Impressionist painters of the South. Her career as an artist did not begin until her 30s, after she graduated from Newcomb College with a degree in English literature. In 1934, she traveled to Mexico City and was inspired by Central and South American folk art, which would remain an influence throughout her life. Several years later she began taking painting and drawing classes at Tulane University with Pat Trivigno, who encouraged her to pursue her study of artwork. Upon receiving her master’s she showed her first paintings at the Fifty-Fourth Annual Spring Exhibition at the Isaac Delgado Museum of Art in New Orleans.

In 1956, Kohlmeyer moved to Provincetown, Massachusetts to experiment with Abstract Expressionism alongside Hans Hoffmann. That same year she traveled to Paris and met Joan Miró, who also inspired her abstract work. However, by the mid 60s she tired of abstraction and moved on to create sculptures with wood and Plexiglas. After experimenting briefly with figurative painting, she returned to abstraction in the 70s. Kohlmeyer died in her hometown of New Orleans in 1997.

Ida Kohlmeyer, Symbols, 1981. Oil, graphite and pastel on canvas, 69 1/2 x 69 in. Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay.

Ida Kohlmeyer, Symbols, 1981. Oil, graphite and pastel on canvas, 69 1/2 x 69 in. Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay.

Kohlmeyer received a number of awards for her artistic achievements, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, Women’s Caucus for Art, New York, NY, USA (1980); the Museum Purchase Award, Twenty-first Southeastern Annual Exhibition, The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, USA (1966); and the Ford Foundation Purchase Award, Twenty-eighth Corcoran Biennial of Contemporary American Painting, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA (1963). She is featured in NMWA’s upcoming exhibition Telling Secrets: Codes, Captions, and Conundrums in Contemporary Art, starting October 9.

Jackie Witkowski has returned to DePaul University in Chicago for her senior year of Art History. Good Luck!

9 thoughts on “Artist Spotlight: Ida Kohlmeyer (American, 1912-1997)

  1. I love Kohlmeyer’s works. She was even copied by Mike Bidlow! I hope to visit the Telling Secrets: Codes, Captions and Conundrums in Contemporary Arts NMWA show in October.

  2. Hello, I am Ida Kohlmeyers daughter and manage her estate. Am so happy to see that mother is being featured in the above show. my son and daughter in law live in the area and I would hope if there is an opening they would be able to attend. Please send me info on the show–opening, length of exhibition. And if you need any information. I am happy to help.
    Jane K. Lowentritt

  3. Hi, my name is Angel and I’m doing a paper on your mother and i would like to know more about her from you like how was you and your brothers child hood like with a mother who is a artist and have a big input in a lot of people in New Orleans, Louisiana if you can email me that would make my day and my paper better thank you

  4. I am a big fan of Ida Kohlmeyer. I was and am influenced by her work greatly. I completed my graduate training in New Orleans with Ida’s Daughter who I admire tremendously as well. Currently, I live in New York and love collecting and researching Ida’s evolving style. She truly was a women ahead of her time.

  5. I deeply regret that I did not know Ida while she was alive, but I feel if we would have been able to share time together when we were both younger, we would have been soul mates or kindred spirits or something of the kind. I leaned of Ida and her work while shopping on the internet at antiques auctions, and after seeing a few pieces of her work, I had to get to see and know more. I am an artist and I work very much in the same mode as she did, though the imagery is quite different. My life experience has been not too much unlike what I read about her and her life. I am thankful for Ida and for her family and friends sharing her with me and the world.

  6. I worked as the proto-registrar for Ida Kohlmeyer’s retrospective at the Birmingham Museum of Art in 1976. All of the work in the exhibit came through me: release forms, insurance, logistics of shipping, and even display. I found Ms. Kohlmeyer to be a very demanding, exacting disciplinarian. At some stages it was very difficult working with her due to her representation by the DIck Jemison Galllery in Birmingham. Ms. Kohlmeyer had some very troubling dealings also with Fran Loeb, who earlier had exclusively represented her work at Gallery 31 in the 1960s All in all, working with Ms. Kohlmeyer was quite unpleasant. To my thoughts, she was a B grade artist trying to come up to an A grade. She could be quite snide and made several discriminatory cuts at the “gay” culture. I would think coming from the New Orleans area that could have been damaging to her reputation.

  7. censoring comments about Ida, yet on a public website. Ida was not the pristine artist she is made out to be.

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