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Homer Nelson Print Features Tonnesen's Indian Maiden

"The Dawn of Woman" by Homer NelsonA photograph by Beatrice Tonnesen found recently by the Winneconne Historical Society in Winneconne WI, features a woman dressed as an Indian maiden. This image is the central figure in an art print titled “The Dawn of Woman” by Homer Nelson, indicating that Nelson painted from Tonnesen's photo. The distinctive headband worn by the woman appears in at least one other Nelson print, leading me to believe that he was a repeat customer of the Tonnesen Studio.

Nelson is known for his many paintings of Indian maidens in outdoor settings that adorned calendars of the 1920s and ‘30s during the Golden Age of Illustration. Fueled by the popularity of the Ziegfeld Follies and other costumed dance troupes during the pre-pinup-calendar era, Indian maiden prints were all the rage then, and maintain their popularity with today's collectors.

Shown at top right is the Nelson print as seen on page 198 of the indispensable guide to calendar art, Vintage Illustration: Discovering America's Calendar Artists 1900-1960 by Rick and Charlotte Martin. Collector's Press. 1997. Image used with permission.

Original "Indian Maiden" by Beatrice TonnesenShown below the Nelson print is an image of the original untitled photograph by Beatrice Tonnesen. Courtesy Winneconne Historical Society, Winneconne, WI. All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2009 Lois Emerson

5 thoughts on “Homer Nelson Print Features Tonnesen's Indian Maiden

  1. I am looking for info on Homer nelson. I found most of his work shown on e-bay all indian subjects I have one that is not. I am glad to have found your article. Any other info welcomed.

  2. Hi Bill,\n\nI believe I’ve seen non-Indian maiden prints by Nelson, but nothing specific comes to mind. I’d love to see your print, if you can scan and send it. Not much is known about Nelson. An out-of-print book- Discovering America’s Calendar Artists: Vintage Illustration- by Rick and Charlotte Martin states that Nelson studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and advanced his studies under C. York in Denver, Colorado. No dates are given, and I don’t know the source of the Martins’ information. Calendars featuring Nelson’s work date to the 1920s-30s, but calendars often featured art that was created years earlier. Nelson’s “Dawn of Woman” originated as a photo by Tonnesen and its date of creation can be fixed at about 1922, based on her numbering system. Hope this helps. Thanks for writing.\nLois

  3. Hi Lois,
    I have a calendar from 1942 (my year of birth) that my son bought at auction only because it was in wonderful(not mint) condition and was my birth year. The lithograph is by Homer Nelson and pictures a man and his son in a canoe. The father is fishing and has a fish on his line, the son is holding the canoe steady with a paddle. There is a lot of woodland and pine trees and the water is running quite fast. The one shore that is visable is rocky to the water. The lithograph measures 9 1/4″ x 6 7/8″ and is perfect. The calendar is intact and perfect and measures 6″ x 4 1/8″. Outside measurments are 10″ x 17″. There is very little wear on the corners and edges. Not nearly as much as you would think for the age. It was wrapped in clear plastic for protection when he bought it, but the plastic shrank in the heat of my son’s trunk so we took it off. It has been in a desk drawer by itself for 3 + years waiting for me to find time to research it. I have recently been selling things collectible on eBay and remembered the calendar. I am not interested in selling it, but am interested in knowing more about the artist and of course if it has any value. I have some pictures of it, but I do not know how to send them at this site… If you are interested in seeing them, email me and I will send them to you. Thank you for your time and anything you can tell me about this artist. frania valentine

  4. Hi, My parents have a painting from Homer Nelson that belonged to my grandmother. It’s entitled “Dawn” What can you tell me about this particular painting, or can you lead me to a place where I can learn more about it? Thank you.

  5. Hi Kathleen,\nI know nothing about it, but I’d love to see it. Can you email an image? Or tell us what the subject matter might be? If “Dawn” is a woman, it’s possible that, like Nelson’s “Dawn of Woman”, it was painted from another Tonnesen photo. I’d love to take a look.\nLois