Ida Kohlmeyer

Photo of Ida Kohlmeyer

Ida Kohlmeyer (NC ’33)

Renowned Southern artist Ida Rittenberg Kohlmeyer created paintings and sculptures categorized by exuberance and vivacity.

Born in 1912, Kohlmeyer was a native New Orleanian, and one of four children of Polish immigrants Joseph and Rebecca Rittenberg. She graduated from Newcomb College in 1933, and upon visiting Veracruz and Mexico City, Mexico in 1934, became inspired by and interested in the art of South and Central America.

Following World War II, Kohlmeyer returned to New Orleans with her family and studied art in the French Quarter at the John McCrady School of Art until she became pregnant with her second child. In 1950, Kohlmeyer returned to Newcomb College to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree. After graduating in 1956, Kohlmeyer attended the Hans Hofman School in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Each of these experiences was formative to Kohlmeyer’s aesthetic and abstractionist development.

Kohlmeyer held the first exhibition of her career at the New Orleans Museum of Art in 1957; however, she broke into the national gallery scene after her 1959 show at the Ruth White Gallery in New York City. Thereafter, Kohlmeyer’s art traveled across the country in museums and galleries such as the Henri Gallery (Washington D.C.), and the Heath Gallery (Atlanta). Kohlmeyer was often encouraged to relocate to the East Coast to enhance her art career, but she insisted on staying in the greater New Orleans area. During this time, Kohlmeyer taught art at Newcomb College from 1956 to 1964, and built her own studio at home. She also taught at the University of New Orleans from 1973 to 1975.

Kohlmeyer reached the height of her career later in life, completing several major commissions, including a project for the Equitable Life Assurance Society building at 1515 Poydras Avenue, and a still-standing major installation of twenty painted metal sculptures for the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, titled “Aquatic Colonnade.”

After her death in January 1997, Kohlmeyer’s daughters, Jane Lowentritt and Jo Ellen Bezou, mobilized funds from the Ida and Hugh Kohlmeyer Foundation to establish the Ida Kohlmeyer Study Center at the Ogden Museum, consisting of 24,000 items from the Kohlmeyer estate. In 2004, the Newcomb Art Museum organized Systems of Color, an exhibition and accompanying book, dedicated to Kohlmeyer.