Knopf Paintings Set To Be Auctioned on September 30

By Benjamin Cox on September 3, 2020 at 9:37am

Fishing Boats, Monterey, California was donated to MacMurray in 1991 by Kathleen Hug Hoffman. The painting is estimated to be worth between $2000-$4000. It's one of 16 to be auctioned on Sept 30 by Hindman Auctions in Chicago.

The first auction of a former MacMurray College art teacher’s paintings have been announced. Hindman Auctions will be auctioning off a collection of 16 paintings of Nellie A. Knopf’s work formerly owned by the college at 10AM on September 30th in Chicago and online.

Knopf’s history is intertwined with MacMurray College. Knopf was born in Chicago in 1875 and was hearing impaired. After she graduated from the Art Institute in Chicago 1900, Knopf secured a teaching position with the Illinois State Woman’s College, which would later become MacMurray. She taught at the college for 43 years, eventually becoming director of the art department never letting her disability hinder her teaching or artistic career. According to the Hockaday Museum of Art, Knopf had some eccentricities but was held in high regard by many of her students. “She was square, with shoulders and hips aligned, wearing a corset that rigidly supported her figure and a somewhat ample upper torso. With a short figure, thin legs and tiny feet in missized shoes, she moved erectly across campus in penguin meter.” Gene Hamilton, a former student recalled to the Hockaday Museum, “Her stature belied her forcefulness. She wore wigs, in rust or amber, and often on tilt. Her clothes were of the same vintage but had an artistic flair. Jewelry, furs and hats gave her a prominent look.”

Photo of Knopf provided by Angie Dunfee, Sprinfield Art Association via

Known as a modernist in the art world, she mainly painted still life and landscapes during her career from her variety of travels across the country. From 1910 – 1917, Knopf spent her summers in Ogunquit, Maine. At that time, Knopf studied with Charles Woodbury, a modernist/impressionist. During the 1920s when female artists were expected to paint delicate watercolors, Knopf spent her time in the west and southwest painting mountains and deserts on many long trips of which she drove herself. In 1922, she spent time painting in New Mexico, and the following summer studied in Colorado with Sven Birger Sandzen, and trained in pointillism and impressionism during a sabbatical. In 1925 and 1926, she spent the summers in Glacier National Park—one of the first women to paint there. After retiring, Knopf moved to Lansing, Michigan and later to Eaton Rapids, Michigan where she traveled to paint in Canada and around the Great Lakes.

During her 50-year painting career, Knopf produced approximately 700 oil paintings and watercolors. She exhibited her paintings extensively throughout the country during her lifetime, including at such venues as the Corcoran Gallery, National Academy of Design, Kansas City Museum of Art, and the Detroit Institute of Arts. MacMurray College held major retrospectives of her work in 1967 and 1987, and has long held the paintings that are for sale in the college’s art collection to be viewed by students around campus.

The paintings are being sold to recoup some of the costs of MacMurray’s closure. The estimated worth of the paintings are between $1,000 and $6,000 each. Bidders will be able to bid online or in person at Hindman’s 1338 West Lake Street location in Chicago. For more information, you can contact them at 312-280-1212.