George M. Cohen, an oil painter, mixed media artist and art professor, was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 4, 1919. He studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Drake University and the University of Chicago. Cohen joined the faculty of Northwestern University in 1948, becoming a full professor in 1963.
At the Art Institute of Chicago Cohen was awarded the Isaacs Scholarship in 1938-39 and the Coolbaugh Scholarship in 1939-1940. He also served as the President of the Art Students League in 1940. His academic career was interrupted between 1941 and 1946 while he served in the U.S. Army with the 63rd Reconnaissance Troop in the European Theatre of Operations. After completing his B.F.A. at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1946, Cohen briefly attended Drake University, where he studied Liberal Arts. At the University of Chicago, he completed residence work toward an M.A. and a Ph.D. in the History of Art from 1946-48.
In 1948 Cohen joined the Northwestern University faculty as an instructor of art. He was promoted to assistant professor of art in 1952 and to associate professor in 1958. He became a full professor in 1963, a position he held until his retirement in 1984, when he became professor emeritus. As guest professor or guest artist, Cohen also taught at the Contemporary Art Workshop in Chicago in 1951, the Institute of Related Art in Wilmette in 1951, the Evanston Art Center from 1951-52, the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology from 1956-57, and the Minneapolis Museum of Art, 1963.
At Northwestern University, Cohen was a President’s Fellow and Distinguished Faculty Lecturer. His numerous awards included the Copley Award, the National Foundation of the Arts Award, a Ford Arts Council Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the State of Illinois 150th Anniversary Award.
Cohen worked in oils and mixed media. A Northwestern University “Faculty Profile” describes Cohen as “a surrealist” who “combines the metaphysical with the sensuous to express new realities of space, time, and the human figure.” Cohen was a founding member of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. In the mid-fifties, he was also a part of a “new Chicago School” which included artists Leon Golub, June Leaf and Cosmo Campoli. They organized annual “Momentum Exhibitions” that caught the notice of New York critics. (See clippings from Art News, October, 1955; Arts, January, 1955.)
Cohen wrote many articles and reviews for various publications. He had many one-person shows and participated in numerous invitational exhibitions. His work can be found in permanent collections, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Carnegie Mellon Museum in Pittsburgh, the Minneapolis Museum of American Arts and the Hirschhorn Collection in Washington, D.C.
Cohen was married to the painter Constance Teander Cohen, who died in 1995. They often showed their work together in exhibits. He had a son, Paul Cohen and two daughters, Frances Tietov and Susan Evans. Cohen died on April 18, 1999.
Addition, Boxes 3-7
This addition to the George M. Cohen Papers spans the years 1948 to 1999 and is organized into the following categories: biographical materials, exhibit announcements and catalogs, correspondence, education files, papers, and material relating specifically to Cohen’s wife, the artist Constance Cohen. Correspondence makes up the bulk of the addition.
The biographical materials are arranged chronologically, and include curricula vitae, clippings, grants and awards. The clippings relate to both Cohen’s academic life at Northwestern University, and to his professional life as a painter. The exhibit announcements and catalogs span the years 1948 to 1999 and document Cohen’s professional career.
The correspondence files date from the early 1940s through the late 1990s. General correspondence is arranged chronologically by decade. Subject correspondence is organized alphabetically, with the contents of each folder arranged chronologically. The many greeting cards that the Cohens received are foldered separately from other correspondence, and are arranged alphabetically by the name of the sender. Subject folders include professional and personal correspondence, including numerous letters of recommendation. Of particular interest are letters and cards Cohen sent to Jack and Irene Oppenheim while in Rome during the first half of the 1960s.
Note: For more correspondence between Cohen and his circle of faculty friends, see the Walter B. Scott Papers (Series 20/29) and the Harrison Hayford Papers (Series 11/3/11/34).
Education files fill three folders and include undated class notes from Cohen’s school days, as well as teaching notes.
Papers and Writings include Cohen’s dissertation on eighteen century French drawing for the University of Chicago, lectures, and personal writing, much of it undated.
Constance Cohen’s papers include biographical materials, clippings, exhibit announcements and catalogs, and correspondence, including a number of letters written to the Oppenheims.