Eleanor Coen "helped forge a tradition of 20th century color lithography and painting" (1). Her impact on art was visible as she spearheaded Chicago art during the 40's and 50's, the climax of her artistic career.
Coen was born in Normal, Illinois on October 16, 1916. One of her earliest art influences was the Art Institute of Chicago where she met her future husband Max Kahn. The two took embarked on their artistic journey from their South Side Chicago studio. It wasn't until the era of the Great Depression in 1939 that Coen's career really took off when the WPA Federal Arts Project sponsored her work, still as a student.
Her extensive list of training included Illinois State University, San Miguel de Allende Summer School (Mexico), and Oxbow Summer School of Art (Saugatuck, MI). She was proficient in all her mediums of drawing, lithograph, oil painting, watercolor painting, and pastels. Though not fond of politics, she held an anti-German sentiment, though it did not show in any of her works.
Coen passed at the age of 93 on July 9, 2010 in Martha's Vineyard, MA where she had been very active. She outlived her husband Max Kahn who died at the age of 103 in 2005.
Eleanor Coen was later dubbed the greatest painter from Chicago during the 40's and 50's.
Lithograph on black on cream China paper
355x348 mm (sheet)
Little is know about the details of this work, like Coen's underlying message or intention for the piece, but we can bring clarity to these gray areas based on her other works.
This lithograph by Coen utilizes black and white colors to create a gloomy, ominous tone. One may also note that the use of children symbolizes a sense of innocence and virtue. A comparison might be drawn to the meaning of three (3) children being illustrated to that same number but of trees in her piece Three Little Trees in the City pictured below. The setting of this piece can be determined to be a back alleyway or corner because of the surrounding brick wall and fence. This would hint to the status of the children being poor or impoverished.
Harvest (c. 1930/40)
Color lithograph on off-white wove paper
371x529 mm (sheet)
Coen enjoyed drawing landscapes, as she found inspiration in urban scenery. This particular piece, a colored lithograph, portrays an image of a desolate and empty field. The corn rows in the back indicate that the land belongs to a farmer, so perhaps Coen attempted to relay a message to her audience of the struggle of farming during the Depression and especially after the Dust Bowl. It appears that the area of crops is limited, but nonetheless the pair of farmers in the lower left seem to be preparing to harvest their corn, as the title would imply.
Three Little Trees in the City (1955)
Color lithograph on ivory-laid paper
444x580 mm (sheet)
Another color lithograph, this piece illustrates one of Coen's common themes in her works--city life in the perspective of a child. This picture is unique in that in many of her cityscapes, children appear unaccompanied by an adult, or "unadulterated", which is not the case here. The adult presence lessens the feeling of danger and instead invokes a feeling of a calm day in the city. To this day, no interpretation of the three trees has been introduced, nor for the strange teal color of the leaves.
(1) - "Eleanor Coen." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 8 Dec. 2011.