Last evening I was browsing through some of my favourite books on pastel, and as I turned the pages of Carole Katchen’s Creative Painting with Pastel, I began to wonder what had become of the artists featured therein. I knew that Edith Neff had passed away, and Richard Pionk – what of the others? When I looked them up, I found to my dismay that Elsie Popkin had passed away in 2005 at the too early age of 67. So this is a belated tribute to a unique artist. Her gay, colourful paintings are full of joy and life, and they are unmistakeably hers.
Elsie Dinsmore Popkin, a graduate of Architecture, Art and Planning, received her B.F.A. in painting from Cornell University in 1958. In 1975 she became the first Artist-in-Residence at Reynolda House Museum of American Art, in Winston-Salem, NC, and was named Winston-Salem Artist of the Year in 1989. In June 2002 she was an Artist-in-Residence at Crater Lake National Park, as part of the Park’s centennial celebration.
Elsie Popkin was a pastel artist who created lush, vivid landscapes, although her early work was devoted to the depiction of the figure, mainly female nudes. Artist Amy Funderbuck once wrote in Domicile Magazine that "Popkin was probably the most prolific artist since Van Gogh." She painted numerous landscapes of North Carolina and painted on location in New York, Japan and Taiwan.
Elsie worked in pastels from her teens. She turned from figure to landscape, to paint en plein air the intensity of color and light of garden and landscape. Each summer she returned to the Isles of Shoals, off the coast of Maine, to teach a pastel workshop and to pay homage to Childe Hassam by painting Celia Thaxter's garden and the rocky shores of Appledore Island.
Popkin's pastel paintings are in many public and private collections and have been featured in numerous art books, including Creative Painting with Pastel, Pastel Solutions, and Collin's Artist's Manual.
Visit her website while it remains online. Her paintings are her memorial.