Art Creative 06

James Neumann

August 9, 1937 ~ July 11, 2023 (age 85) 85 Years Old


James E. Neumann, 85, died of an aneurysm in his brain July 11 at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City. His family was with him. An art show and celebration of life is being planned for a later date.

Mr. Neumann spent his youngest years in and near Arenzville, Illinois. The family moved to Chicago when his father was appointed pastor at Luther Memorial Church on Wilson Avenue. He often shared stories about delivering the Chicago Tribune, taking the El downtown for piano lessons, and life on the Chicago streets. He was proud of a scholarship he received for art classes at the Art Institute and of his alma mater Lane Tech College Prep High School. He majored in art at Colorado College. 

After graduation, he enlisted in the army and was stationed in the demilitarized zone in Korea. 

He received his MA in printmaking and later his MFA in painting at the University of Iowa. It was there he met his future wife by winking at her across the print room. He was an excellent winker. They were married in Burlington at the bride’s family home overlooking the Mississippi. 

Mr. Neumann always said that art was what he was meant to do. His first jobs were as gallery director at the Asheville Museum of Art and then as Director of Education at the Greenville County Museum of Art. Most significantly, he taught printmaking for 30 plus years at Western Illinois University in Macomb. Devoted to his students, he worked alongside them in his print room, teaching by example, demonstration and philosophy. Although formally trained in Intaglio and relief techniques, he was interested in many different mediums and made sculptures, lithographs, and weavings. He built tables, bookcases, music stands, toys and a screened-in porch on the back of the house. After retiring and while waiting on the transplant list, he learned to make pots. In his eighties he worked primarily in ink pen and acrylic paint and often stated that he was making the best art of his life. He made art every day, including the day he died. His daughters agree that he was the best dad. He taught them to make prints, to really look at things, to draw with a sharp pencil. He taught one to build structures strong and secure and he taught the other that if you handed over the hammer to your father he would finish the nail. He always carried their violins. 

Mr. Neumann had health challenges throughout his life including two brain bleeds and a brain operation. He was diagnosed with idiopathic cirrhosis of the liver in his early 60s. In 2008 he received the miracle of a liver transplant. His grandson said “I got to know Grandfather for 21 years, and I was not supposed to. He was supposed to die when I was 5.” The family is forever thankful to the transplant team at the UI, health care providers who have cared for him over the years and the anonymous donor who gave him extra time.

Anyone wishing to donate funds in his honor might consider the Iowa Donor network, or a similar network near them. 

He was preceded in death by his father, mother and brother Michael. 

Survivors include his wife of 57 years Jean Cooper Neumann, daughters Mary and Helen, grandchildren Irene Rose and Billy James, siblings Krista and David, and many loved cousins, and nieces and nephews. He also leaves behind a cat named Maude and 4000 pots. 

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