A Tribute to Francine Sinsabaugh

A Tribute to Francine Sinsabaugh

As a University of Illinois student in the ‘70s, I was privileged to take a photography course with Professor Art Sinsabaugh, who enjoyed an international reputation, particularly for his large-format, black-and-white photographs of Chicago and the Midwest landscape.

I later moved to Danville, where I again was privileged to become acquainted and to study with Sinsabaugh’s ex-wife, Francine Sinsabaugh, an artist in her own right who taught for years at Danville public schools, Danville Area Community College, the Danville Art League and other places.

She died on March 28, leaving quite a legacy behind for her many students.

The News-Gazette carried a brief obituary about Francine, who was 81 when she died of natural causes.

I found a longer one in The Commercial-News, the daily newspaper where I once worked, in Danville, where Francine lived.

According to that, she had once owned an art gallery in Chicago and exhibited her work extensively. Her work is in many private collections.

"Over the years she created works in a wide variety of media — but perhaps her most recognized are her wood prints, her oils (especially large floral designs) and her mosaic designs," the obituary reads. "Her rich sense of color and her evident freedom of expression through art was compelling and a joy to behold. With just a few strokes, her hand could frame and create a blank canvas — revealing a hidden picture only held in her mind’s eye."

I was not surprised to read that Francine’s students over the years won numerous awards. She was a warm, empathetic and passionate teacher.

She was the kind of person you felt you could confide in.

Kevin Cullen, who was one of my co-workers at The C-N, e-mailed me the other day to say he had just stumbled across Francine’s obituary on the Internet.

"She was a wonderful artist and art teacher," Cullen told me. "I took her art appreciation class at DJC (Danville Junior College) and I was just blown away by her knowledge and passion. I had her for just that one class in the spring of 1974, but it was magical. She truly was an original."

At DACC, Francine had been instrumental in designing the art curriculum and taught all the art classes for many years. In retirement, she continued to teach at the Danville Art League, the Laura Lee Fellowship House and privately.

I remember how dedicated Francine was to art education.  She realized how art could appeal to and even save some troubled students.

After she and Art Sinsabaugh divorced, Francine and he remained friends and she went to school, at the UI, obtaining a bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Earlier in her life Francine attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she received a three-year certificate with honors.

While living in Danville, I also got to know the Sinsabaughs' two daughters, Katherine Sinsabaugh, a musician, and Libby Sinsabaugh de la Cova, who like her father became a photographer.

I’m sorry I missed the memorial service for their mother on May 1 in Danville. Her family asked that in lieu of flowers people donate to the Danville Art League in Francine’s name.

Robert Youngman, RIP

Another local artist who recently died without much public fanfare was Robert Youngman, a sculptor who taught for many years in the UI School of Art + Design. One of his outdoor sculptures is partly embedded in the lawn in front of the school.

I discovered a few months ago from a Facebook post by Becky Youngman, an old friend, that her father had died peacefully, surrounded by family. I had met him only once or twice back in the day but  have good memories of him, and, of course, Becky.

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