Krasl Art Center

St. Joseph, MI



Tunis Ponsen (1891-1968), Estate Paintings

November 14, 1999 - January 9, 2000


The Krasl Art Center will present an exhibition of paintings, watercolors, and prints from the estate of the late artist, Tunis Ponsen. On view will be over 40 landscapes portraits and still-lifes that have never before been seen in public. This unique exhibition was co-curated with the assistance of Mr. Roy Saper from the Saper Galleries in East Lansing, MI. (left: Weeping Willow by Barn with Open Door, oil on canvas, From the Tunis Ponsen Estate, Saper Galleries)

Though Ponsen was native born to the Netherlands in 1891, he journeyed as a small boy to southwest Michigan and by 1910 was working as a house painter and decorator in Muskegon. This job allowed him to save enough money to send for Cato Van Boekering, his hometown love, who was still living in the Netherlands. Upon her arrival in New York Tunis discovered Cato had fallen in love with another man on the trip over. Ponsen was devastated by this and never married. In 1917, he began studying at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. In 1929 one of his paintings was chosen by popular vote to become the first oil painting acquired for the collection of the Flint Institute of Arts. His early paintings have been said to resemble the Impressionistic style, however his later works possess an honest, realistic, regional style. Many of the works in this exhibition reflect his time spent in southwestern Michigan. Seascapes, barns, orchards, and open fields were common subjects for Ponsen. He painted what was familiar to him. (right: Fishing Nets Hanging Out to Dry, oil on canvas, From the Tunis Ponsen Estate, Saper Galleries)

Since Ponsen clearly loved and enjoyed his work, he was very reluctant to part with many of his paintings. In time he amassed over 1,000 completed works. In 1952, Ponsen moved to Hyde Park outside Chicago where he painted and taught until his death in 1968. His work was exhibited during the 1960's at the St. Joseph Art Association building in St. Joseph. In 1967 he asked his niece, Angenita Morris, to keep his work in the possession of the family. These works were moved to her home in Benton Harbor were they remained away from the public eye for 25 years. In 1990 an insurance representative (Citizens Insurance Company) was asked to appraise Ponsen's paintings. He was astounded by the vast collection of Ponsen's work. His knowledge of art led to articles about these newly discovered works. The Lost Paintings of Tunis Ponsen were written about in Art News magazine and the Detroit Free Press magazine in 1994. Today Ponsen's work can be found in collections of the City of Chicago, the Flint Institute of Arts, Northwestern University and the Muskegon Museum of Art. (left: Orchard, watercolor, From the Tunis Ponsen Estate, Saper Galleries)

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