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Popular Boy and Dog Image Found in Tonnesen Archive

Beatrice Tonnesen - Popular Boy photograph painted (Editor’s Note: 9/20/12: The publisher of a calendar featuring this print identified the artist as Alan Austin Pope, seeming to rule out the possibility that the A. Pope who painted from Tonnesen’s photos was Alexander pope, painter of dogs and wildlife.)

(Editor’s Note 2/13/08: Update- This print has been found with the signature “A. Pope.” Alexander Pope (1849-1924) was a well-known painter who specialized in dogs and wildlife. I am attempting to verify the signature. I will be posting another signed A. Pope print, which also started as a photo by Tonnesen, shortly.)

(Editor’s Note 5/26/2010: Update- A site visitor, Pat Johnson whose initial message appears at the bottom of this post, has kindly provided us with a copy of a letter written by Beatrice Tonnesen in 1954. Pat’s mother had written to Tonnesen regarding this print, which she owned. In her response, Tonnesen revealed that the child who posed for the photo was actually a girl! Tonnesen wrote: “…the child was a beautiful little girl…That child was not even asleep! Just posed for me completely relaxed. Quite remarkable for one so young.”)

As a collector of early twentieth century illustration art, I've wondered for years about the unsigned, untitled “mystery” print shown at top right. The sleeping boy and his trusty guard dog were popular subjects of a number of artists of the era. This little boy in his Edwardian outfit always looked to me like the child in RA Fox's “The Children's Hour,” done under his DeForest pseudonym. So I've always thought maybe this one, too, was by Fox.

And maybe Fox did paint the woodsy sunset and the flowered lawn, and the colorful details of the boy and dog. I don't know. (Although the flowers in the grass do look especially Foxy to me!) But the boy and dog definitely originated as a photo by Beatrice Tonnesen. Her original photo, shown bottom right, can be found in the Tonnesen Archive of the Oshkosh Public Museum. (Note the photo was taken inside with a crude prop under the boy's head, as though it was planned that another background would be added later.) Fox is reported to have shared Tonnesen's studio for a time during the ‘20's, and is known to have painted on occasion from Tonnesen's photos.

Sleeping Boy and Dog image by Beatrice TonnesenTonnesen herself was an accomplished painter, and it is possible that she was both the photographer and the artist. My theory, however, is that when she alone was responsible for both the photography and the painting of a work, she signed it. More often, it appears, she sold her photographs to artists and publishers for their use, to embellish as they desired, without crediting the photographer. So I think this beautiful print was finished by some other artist – maybe R Atkinson Fox or, possibly, a talented staff artist employed by the publisher. What do you think? Regardless of the artist's identity, I'm happy that we can now credit Tonnesen with the creation of the appealing photographic image that is central to the work.

(For more information on R Atkinson Fox and other early twentieth century illustrators, visit the RA Fox Society.)

All Content Copyright 2007 Lois Emerson

9 thoughts on “Popular Boy and Dog Image Found in Tonnesen Archive

  1. I have a copy of “On Guard” that my mother had in her posession as long as I can remember. She was born in 1913 and contacted Beatrice. I also have the letter that Beatrice wrote back to her. I would be interested in hearing more about this photograph.

  2. Hello Pat,\n\nI am not sure if you are saying you have a copy of the print, or the photo from which it was painted. The print has been found on a 1926 calendar, titled “Safely Guarded,” signed A. Pope. Tonnesen’s practice appears to have been to make several original photos (copies) from the same image, and then shop them around to her clients, leaving a copy or two for her files and/or her models. Many of the original photos have a notation on the back stating that the photo was to be returned to her. So, for each photo there is the possibility that several copies still exist. The only other original photo of this image, that we know of, is in the files of the Oshkosh Public Museum. We’d love to know more about your mother’s connection with Tonnesen, her correspondence with your mother, and your print or photo.\nThanks for writing. Hope to hear from you again.\nLois

  3. Lois,
    My grandmother cut the picture of a 1926 calendar and framed it because the little sleeping child reminded her of her own son. My aunt recently gave the framed picture to me. I am wondering what the name of the calendar was. We live in rural Arkansas.
    Could you give me the name of the calendar?
    Thanks,
    Joe

  4. Hi Joe,\nThanks for visiting! The calendar print, which originated as a photo by Beatrice Tonnesen, has been found titled “Safely Guarded” and signed “A. Pope.” But, unfortunately, I don’t know the name or names of the advertisers on whose calendars it appeared. The process by which a photo or print appeared on a calendar went something like this: The calendar companies purchased prints to be used on their calendars each year. The calendar salesperson showed each year’s selection of prints to his/her customers – the advertisers. Each customer then chose the print or prints desired to appear on the coming year’s advertising calendars. So, any given print had the potential to turn up on any advertiser’s calendar, anywhere in the country that the calendar company serviced, and “Safely Guarded” might have appeared on any number of advertisers’ calendars. It was very common for recipients to cut out and frame the prints for wall decor after the calendar year was up. By the way, Beatrice Tonnesen later wrote that the child in the photo was actually a girl! (See the “Editor’s Notes” on the post above.)\n-Lois

  5. I also have what looks like a print of this picture. Mine has the numbers 2632 on the bottom right corner does this mean anything? This was my friends grandmother picture.

  6. Hi Nancy,\nThanks for writing. My understanding is that the publishers assigned numbers to their prints for reference purposes. For example, if a customer chose that print for an advertising calendar, the number 2632 would appear on the order.\n-Lois

  7. Hi Lois,\nDoes this mean that this is a print cut from a calander or is it a actual print of the picture?\nNancy

  8. Hi Nancy,\nRegardless of how the publisher used it, if your print dates to your grandmother’s time, you have an original print of of an image by A. Pope that began as a photograph by Beatrice Tonnesen. Whether the publisher originally produced it on a calendar or other advertising item, or as a framed print, makes no difference. It is an actual print of the original work of art. Hope this helps.\n-Lois