Tourtelot, Madeline Tripp | Wisconsin Public Television

Tourtelot, Madeline Tripp

Madeline Tripp Tourtelot found success around every corner during her life. Not only was she an accomplished painter, but also a sculptor, weaver, jeweler, photographer, and filmmaker. She founded two art schools in Door County as well.

She was born on November 21, 1915 in Alameda, California. Her birth name was Madeline Hanson. Tripp Tourtelot’s parents divorced shortly after her birth. She and her older sister, Lois, went to live with her father’s sister and her husband, Madeline and Chester Tripp. The couple later adopted the two sisters.

The Tripp family lived in Evanston, Illinois. Mr. and Mrs. Tripp were art enthusiasts. They regularly took trips to Chicago’s museums and galleries, giving young Tripp Tourtelot an early exposure to the arts. The Tripps later allowed Madeline to study in France to pursue her interest in art.

Tripp Tourtelot’s growth in the arts continued during the family’s regular trips to their summer home in Ephraim, Wisconsin. There, she studied painting on the porch of what is now The White Gull Inn in Fish Creek with the award-winning artist Vladimir Rousseff.

Tripp Tourtelot embraced education. She attended Smith College before studying journalism and Spanish at Northwestern University. She also took classes at The Art Institute of Chicago and the Institute of Design.

At 19 years old, Tripp Tourtelot married an architect named Edward Tourtelot. The couple had a son named Edward Jr. in 1936. Two years later, they welcomed a daughter, Joan.

Tripp Tourtelot had a very diverse art career. Notably, some of her paintings were on display and later purchased by the Art Institute of Chicago. She also worked as an art critic for a newspaper during the 1950s.

As a filmmaker, Tripp Tourtelot pushed the boundaries as she strived to have film be seen as an art form and not just for entertainment. Her passion for film began in 1947 when she was in Mexico painting, and a film crew invited her to watch them produce their movie.

She directed at least nine films during the 1950s. They varied in subject and style from a documentary about Mexico’s indigenous people to a dance interpretation of a poem. Her film called "The Poet’s Return" took place in Door County. In addition to directing the films, she also wrote the scripts, edited the film, and sometimes wrote the music. "Windsong" was the only film in which she acted.

Tripp Tourtelot wanted to provide others with the opportunity to study and experience art. She founded the Ephraim Art School in 1943, which had summer classes until 1949. She also founded the Door Harbor School of Art in Fish Creek in 1965. Now called the Peninsula School of Art, this center began in the basement of Gibraltar High School. Her goal for the school was to provide art instruction and help others discover how art enriches lives. She was the school’s director until 1971.

In 1984, Tripp Tourtelot suffered a debilitating stroke. She later died on May 26, 2002. People remember her for her profound art abilities, love of life, and imaginative spirit.

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