Dorothea von Eckhardt
Dorothea von Eckhardt, age 73, a resident of Belen, was called to be with our Lord on Tuesday, Feb. 2. Dorothea was born in Long Island, N.Y., on Nov. 6, 1936. She was a descendant of European painters and sculptures. At the age of 9, she knew that she would be an artist. Dorothea became a fine artist after a successful career as a commercial designer. She designed for Fortune 500 and Medical Arts. Dorothea was one of the first females in the field of design. After 30 years of designing, painting and winning numerous awards, she settled down at the foothills of the Manzano Mountains to pursue her painting. She was a member of the Belen Art League, the Belen German Club and was an art teacher at the Belen Art League Gallery. She was known by many and loved by all. She was preceded in death by her parents, Theodore and Elsie (Langer) von Eckhardt. Dorothea is survived by her loving sister, Catherine Toscano and brother, John Maiorana of Virginia. A visitation will be held at the Romero Funeral Home Chapel, on Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 1 p.m., with a memorial service to be held at 2 p.m. with Pastor Larry Chambers officiating. Interment will be held at a later date. Sign Dorothea's online register book at www.romerofuneralhomenm.com. Romero Funeral Home, 609 N. Main St., Belen.
Local artist von Eckhardt leaves legacy of passion and perseverance
Written by Julia M. Dendinger/News-Bulletin
Saturday, 20 February 2010 06:00
After years of bringing artwork with a "little bit of theatrical flair" to Valencia County, local oil painter and sculptor Dorothea von Eckhardt died on Feb. 2.
During a visit to the Southwest in her 20s, von Eckhardt was captivated by the stark contrast between the desert and her native New York City. Thirty years later, she returned to New Mexico and made her indelible mark on the county's art community.
As a small child, von Eckhardt began her artistic endeavors by sketching and drawing. Her mother bought her a paint-by-numbers set, but almost instantly, von Eckhardt knew that the lines that separated the colors just wouldn't work for her. She needed to express her art with a more natural flow, she said.
"I started blending the colors together because I thought it looked better," she remembered. "That's the way I really started to learn how to blend things instead of coloring within the lines."
When she was 9, she would get a knife and sculpt figures of animals out of her mother's Ivory soap. Von Eckhardt said during a 2006 interview with the News-Bulletin that she doesn't know anything else but art.
"I just did art all my life," she said. "I just don't care to know anything else."
A graduate of the School of Arts and Design in New York City, von Eckhardt began her career by working as a commercial artist for several major companies. Not only did she design product packaging for companies such as Revlon and Chanel, she was also an art director and medical artist for 20 years.
Von Eckhardt said her abilities to create pieces of art stem from both her desire and a little help from her genes. She comes from a long line of European artists, including her grandfather and uncles — successful painters and sculptures.
She once joked that art runs in her veins; but rather than blood, it's turpentine.
Her love of art led her to teach regular painting and sculpture classes at the Belen Art League Gallery on Becker Avenue.
Over the years, she has participated in shows across the county, including the annual santero show at the Tomé Gallery. In 2004, von Eckhardt was given her own one-woman show at the Harvey House Museum.
Two years later, the Belen Art League held its 50th anniversary gala dinner and presented a new award to von Eckhardt and Belen Mayor Ronnie Torres as residents who had contributed greatly to the art league and community.
Von Eckhardt and the mayor received the Golden Palette award at the gala event, which marked the first time it has ever been given out and began a new tradition for the league.
"Dorothea is an all-around talented and creative person," said Lorraine Doty, the art league president at the time. "She is also very humble. She has been in the art league a long time, and she's always coming up with something and getting us involved. She's also a good teacher."
Although Von Eckhardt was very appreciative of the award, she was a little embarrassed.
"It was very nice, but I'm a little humbled about it because I voted for someone else I thought deserved it more," she said after the gala. "We have a lot of good artists in Valencia County."
After her death, at age 73, Doty said von Eckhardt was what one might call a "little ball of energy. The last year and a half, her health wasn't so good, and she was in and out of the hospital.
"But every time she got out, she would go right back to the gallery and teaching. She was extraordinary like that."
Doty says she will remember von Eckhardt as an active, busy artist always bursting with new ideas on how to strengthen the local art league.
"She joined a group in Albuquerque just to help the art league," Doty said. "She was always willing to do stuff. She was the kind of person who would do what needed to be done.
"She had her little quirks — her hats with the pins and her boots. And with her Jeep all painted up, you always knew Dorothea was there."
Fellow art league member and student Cecelia Aragon said she and von Eckhardt formed a bond during the classes.
"As an instructor, she was really good. She would show us the basics and then let us go on our own," Aragon said. "Then, she would tell us what we were doing wrong and how to correct and enhance our pieces.
"She was very gentle, always supporting you in your work," Aragon said.
While she made her living as a commercial artist for 20 years, Aragon remembers von Eckhardt telling stories about breaking into a business that didn't readily welcome women at the time.
"She always signed her work 'D. von Eckhardt' without her first name. She sent her work out, and was called in for an interview with a major company," Aragon said. "Well, they saw her and said, 'We don't hire women.'
"Based on her work, she was eventually granted the interview and got the job. She was one of the first women in the field."
To honor von Eckhardt's contributions to the Belen Art League, Aragon said the league has decided to name its annual Valentine's Day Tea scholarships after her.
The scholarship is awarded to Belen High School students who are majoring in art or a related field.
Von Eckhardt was a member of the Belen Art League, the Belen German Club and was an art teacher at the Belen Art League Gallery.
Visitation and services have already been held for von Eckhardt.
Contact Julia M. Dendinger
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