Sharon Bailey, daughter of child model Virginia Waller Wicks (1913-2006), who was featured prominently in the work of Beatrice Tonnesen from about 1916-1920, recently dug an old oil painting out of her closet. The painting had hung for decades in her mother’s home, but was stored away when her mother went into assisted living. Imagine Sharon’s surprise when she found it was signed R. Atkinson Fox on the front! Perhaps even more interesting is what she found on the back. Written in what appears to be Fox’s hand is:
Nov 16 /24
Property of Beatrice Tonnesen
An undated sticker indicates that Virginia’s father had it framed at Marshall Fields in Chicago. While the landscape painting is very typical of Fox’s work, I do not recognize it as anything I’ve ever seen as a published print by Fox. The inscription makes me wonder if perhaps Tonnesen, though an accomplished painter in her own right, purchased it (and five others?) as background pieces for her photographic images. Her prints do sometimes feature outdoorsy backgrounds, but, again, I don’t recognize this one in any of the published prints I’ve seen.
The images shown at right are, top to bottom: 1. The landscape; 2. A closeup of the signature on the front provided by Sharon Bailey; 3. The inscription on the back photographed by Sharon Bailey and enhanced by Sumner Nelson; 4. A scan of a photo of RA Fox by Beatrice Tonnesen with inscription by Fox. His handwritten inscription on the photo seems to me to match the handwritten inscription on the back of the painting. This bottom image is provided courtesy Oshkosh Public Museum, Oshkosh, WI. All rights reserved. Fox collectors may recognize Fox’s photo as one used by his publishers to promote the calendars on which his artwork appeared. (See page 40 in Rita Mortenson’s 1991 book R. Atkinson Fox, His Life and Work.)
(C)2009 Lois Emerson