Paulette Victorine Jeanne (Mrs. Arthur Meltzer) Van Roekens

American, 1897 - 1988
Paulette van Roekens was born on New Year's Day, 1896, in Chatcau-Thierry, France, about fifty miles east of Paris. Her parents, Victor and Jeanne van Rockens, immigrated with their infant daughter to the United States shortly after she was born, and settled near Philadelphia, in rural Glenside, Pennsylvania, where Victor, a horticulturist, established a tree nursery.

Van Rockens entered the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design) in 1915, and later continued her studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Graphic Sketch Club (now the Fleischer Art Memorial) in Philadelphia. Among the artists she studied with were Henry B. Snell, Joseph T. Pearson Jr., Leopold Seyffert, Samuel Murray, and Charles Grafly.

Her artistic ability was quickly recognized. In 1916 she was selected for the John Sartain Fellowship at the School of Design, which led to a lifelong friendship with Harriet Sartain, dean of the school. In 1923, after spending some time in Newport, Rhode Island, van Roekens joined the faculty of Moore College of Art and Design as an assistant professor of drawing and painting. Moore was to remain a key part of van Roekens's life. When she retired from teaching there in 1961, she was awarded an honorary doctorate for her contributions to the college. The following year Moore College named her professor emeritus, and on her ninetieth birthday the college established the Paulette van Roekens Scholarship Fund. Van Roekens also taught at the Graphic Sketch Club from 1920 to 1927.

One of van Roekens's early paintings, in the permanent collection of the Pennsylvania Academy, drew the attention of her husband-to-be, the artist Arthur Meltzer, when he was a student at the academy. He admired the painting but decided that "P. van Roekens" must be "an old hag" of great renown to be in such a prestigious collection) The couple finally met six years later when Meltzer joined the teaching staff at Moore College. He was intrigued to discover that van Roekens was actually a twenty-nine-year-old blue-eyed blonde. They married on June 15, 1927, and moved to an old farmhouse in Trevose, Pennsylvania. Both continued to teach sharing child-raising responsibilities for their two children, Davis and Joanne. The family settled in Huntingdon Valley when their Trevose home was slated for demolition by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

Van Roekens's innate love of color had been well nurtured by instructors like Snell and Pearson. Although early works were often still lifes with flowers and pots, she is best known for her vivid scenes of people in motion.

She won the Pennsylvania Academy's fellowship award in 1928. She also won prizes in exhibitions at the Philadelphia Plastic Club (1920), the Philadelphia Sketch Club (1923), the Woodmere Art Gallery (now Woodmere Art Museum, 1946 and 1956), and the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. Van Roekens's work is in many public and private collections, including the Pennsylvania Academy, the Philadelphia Graphic Sketch Club, the Pennsylvania State University (State College), the Reading Public Museum, and the Woodmere Art Museum.

On January 11, 1988, van Roekens died at her home in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, surrounded by the people, art, and things she loved. She was survived by her husband and two children. She was ninety-two years old.

Biography courtesy of Roughton Galleries, www.antiquesandfineart.com/roughton
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