St. Augustine’s historic backdrop and rich history have long served to draw the attention of artists. Various galleries throughout the Ancient City showcase the works of local, national, and international artists who work with a variety of mediums. One of the most notable local artists whose paintings are displayed across town and beyond, is Jean Wagner Willhite Troemel.
Troemel was born in Alma, Michigan on May 4th, 1921. She spent her childhood and early adulthood in Alma, Michigan; Asheville, North Carolina; and West Palm Beach, Florida. She attended the Norton School of Art While in West Palm Beach, she attended the Norton School of Art. She additionally studied at The National Cathedral School in Washington D.C.; The Art Students League & National Academy of Design in New York; and the University of New Mexico. After her formal training, Troemel founded the Ridge Art Association in 1950 in Winter Haven, Florida. She later became an art instructor at The Jacksonville Art Museum and Flagler College, additionally producing illustrated works for the University of California. In 1969, Troemel and her husband, Ben, relocated to St. Augustine when he was transferred to Naval Station Mayport. Upon arriving city, Troemel sought to become a part of and bolster the local art community.
As the art scene began to flourish throughout St. Augustine during the 1970s, Troemel’s influence remained strong. She became a member of the Florida Artists Group and served as its president in 1975, 1976 and 1996. In 1982, she opened the P.A.S.T.A Gallery (Professional Artists of St. Augustine) on Charlotte Street. Troemel’s work was not recognized only in St. Augustine. In fact, she received several major national and international awards, including a listing on the prestigious “World’s Who’s Who of Women”, a listing that she maintained for 15 years.
While Troemel was a versatile artist, she is most well known for her oil paintings of portraits and landscapes. Her works include some of St. Augustine’s iconic people and places, including depictions of Otto Lightner, Ponce de Leon, and even the St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library on the corner of Artillery Lane and Aviles Street. Troemel remained popular into the 1990s and early 2000s as well, with her paintings of indigenous Floridians being displayed at the Florida Supreme Court to celebrate Native American history and culture during an annual Pow-Wow in 1998. Troemel would pass away on January 18, 2018, but her legacy remains strong. In 2019 the St. Augustine Art Association featured an exhibition of her work titled “From Asia to the Americas: The Art of Jean Wagner Troemel”. Her art, and her story, remain a fascinating tale in the tapestry of St. Augustine’s local history.
Written by Nicole Diehm, Librarian and Curator
SAHS Manuscript Collection; Jean Troemel Papers MC141