MacMurray's Nellie Knopf art collection goes to auction Sept. 30, Oct. 1

September 18, 2020

JACKSONVILLE, IL (September 18, 2020) – A MacMurray College art collection comprising the work of renowned painter and former art professor Nellie A. Knopf (1875-1962) will be offered to museums, collectors and the general public in separate online auctions on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 by Hindman Chicago.

Knopf, a Chicago native and 1900 graduate of the School of the Art Institute, worked at MacMurray College as both an art professor and later as director of its art program, retiring in 1943. She navigated a male-dominated art world as a deaf woman, painting widely and exhibiting regularly, and left a body of 750 works in oil and watercolor upon her death, at the age of 86, in 1962. 

“Knopf’s landscapes rank her as one of the early female painters of the great American West and as an early female Modernist. ” said Joseph Stanfield, director of the Fine Art Department at Hindman and curator of the upcoming American and European Art auction. “It’s rare to be able to offer such a representative output of an artist at one time.”

Sixteen of Knopf’s most significant, larger-scale work will be sold during a Sept. 30 live auction beginning at 10 a.m. CDT, and available online. The paintings, Lots 65-80, can be viewed at: 

The following day, Oct. 1, more than 40 additional paintings and drawings (Lots 91-134) will be sold in an online auction that will begin at 2 p.m. CDT. These works can be viewed at:

Although their styles are distinct and different, Knopf was a contemporary of Georgia O’Keeffe, a fellow Midwesterner and Art Institute graduate. Knopf began painting in New Mexico in the 1920s, years before O’Keeffe made the state her home and an inspiration for her work. Knopf went on to paint rugged landscapes in the mountains of Colorado, along the California coast, and, perhaps most notably, in Glacier National Park in Montana, during sabbaticals and summer breaks from the college.   

Stanfield has already seen high interest in the MacMurray College collection. He said the general public, especially MacMurray’s 10,000 alumni, is expected to drive the online bidding. He also anticipates that museums and art collectors will be active in the two auctions. 

To participate in the bidding, prospective buyers need to visit and register and create an account.

All proceeds will go toward settling the outstanding debt of the 174-year-old institution, which closed permanently following spring semester 2020. The closure was announced in March on a unanimous vote of the college’s Board of Trustees in the wake of declining students enrollments and unsustainable competitive costs.  

“We reached the decision to sell the Knopf collection with a great deal of regret,” said John M. Nicolay, president of the MacMurray College Board of Trustees. “MacMurray took great pride in hosting retrospectives of her work through the decades. Sadly, it is our fiduciary responsibility to properly secure and monetize the college’s assets.” 

Nellie Knopf FAQ

About MacMurray College:
MacMurray College was an independent, four-year college with a strong liberal arts tradition located in Jacksonville, about 30 miles west of Springfield. Founded in 1846 by Methodist clergy as the Illinois Conference Female Academy, MacMurray College was one of the oldest institutions of higher education originally for women in the United States and one of the oldest private liberal arts colleges in the State of Illinois prior to its formal closure in August 2020.


Media Contacts:
Jim Prescott                    
c/o MacMurray College                
 708 717 2110 (mobile)                

Joseph Stanfield
312 280 1212

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