Who was the Artist Behind the “A. Pope” Signature?

#19 On Guard
Picture 2 of 4

This ca. 1923 photo by Tonnesen titled "On Guard" became a color print titled "Safely Guarded" and signed A. Pope. Beatrice Tonnesen wrote in a 1954 letter that the child, who is dressed as a boy, was actually a girl, and that she was not asleep, but "... just posed for me completely relaxed." Courtesy Oshkosh Public Museum, Oshkosh WI. All rights reserved. 16-19-Tonnesen OPM 1920-1930

During the 1920’s, two of Beatrice Tonnesen’s photos, both featuring charming children protected by their faithful dogs, became colorful calendar prints signed “A. Pope.”  Because no artist listing or biographical information has been found for A. Pope, collectors, myself included, have speculated for years that the signature might be a pseudonym for another artist.  Possibilities include Tonnesen herself and R. Atkinson Fox (1860-1935), who shared Tonnesen’s studio for a time and was known to use pseudonyms.  It’s also possible that A. Pope was either the real name or a pseudonym for an unknown staff artist, employed by either Tonnesen’s Studio or by the publisher of the print.

Recently, however, I purchased a 1927 salesman’s sample calendar featuring A. Pope’s “Safely Guarded” which came from a photo by Tonnesen, previously titled “On Guard.”  Under the print, the following information appeared:

(c)1924 Robert Chapman Co. NY.  Reproduced from the original by A. Pope.

The two most popular picture subjects in the world to the average individual are children and animals and when the twain are combined so beautifully as in this wonderful painting the appeal is universal. “Safely Guarded” was the last canvas ever executed by the late Alan Austin Pope, whose fame as an artist during the Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893, where his work was exhibited, was international.  Mr. Pope painted this picture from a Photo Study which had previously been awarded the first prize in an important National contest conducted for the Advancement of Art in Photography, and the combination of the two mediums has produced a picture that is a gem of exquisite beauty.

As you might guess, I was quite excited to discover this new information, and I immediately set about trying to find some trace of an artist named Alan Austin Pope who died prior to 1927.   I’ve searched newspaper archives, census reports and various art and artist listings, but, so far, I’ve found nothing!  Nor have I been able to find a comprehensive listing of  art displayed at the Chicago World’s Fair or any evidence of  “a National contest conducted for the Advancement of Art in Photography” at which Tonnesen’s photo might have won an award.  That the publisher gave us a full name, rather than only the initial “A” is helpful, however, because it differentiates the “A. Pope” who painted from Tonnesen’s photos from the better known “Alexander Pope,” painter of wildlife, who, apparently, also signed some of his works “A. Pope.”

So the question of who painted the Tonnesen photos remains:  Who was A. Pope?  Publishers were sometimes known to have created fictionalized write-ups for their calendar prints.  They also reportedly asked artists to use pseudonyms in order to appear to have a larger stable of artists from whose work they chose their featured prints.  So, be it fact or fiction, A. Pope, and now Alan Austin Pope, remain mysteries to me!  Does anyone out there have an answer?

(To read previous posts and comments about A. Pope’s prints, use the search function at left.)

Copyright (c) 2010 Lois Emerson

20 thoughts on “Who was the Artist Behind the “A. Pope” Signature?

  1. We have a painting that we inherited from my husband’s grandmother. It is signed by A. Pope. If you ever find an answer to this question … I would love to know. I will continue to search as well.

  2. Hi,\nThanks for writing. Is it possible for you to take a photo of the painting? We’d love to see it. What is the subject of the painting? \n\nThanks,\nLois

  3. I have a painting that is signed A.Pope. It is a picture of rivers and mountains. It looks old but I am not sure if it is worth anything. I have it hanging and it is in perfect condition.

  4. Hi Teresa,\nIs it possible for you to email a photo of the painting? Is the signature printed or written? Are there any notations on the back of it? We’d love to know more! Thanks for writing.\nLois

  5. I too have a painting by A. Pope. It too is a landscape with mountains and a lake in the foreground with trees. Vivid colors. The canvas has yellowed on the back and has a linen look and feel. The A in the signature is print and the Pope is cursive. It measures 24″w x 34″h.

  6. Hi Bruce,\nThanks for writing. Any idea how old your painting is? The “A. Pope” who painted from Tonnesen’s photos used a printed signature. Nonetheless, it would be interesting to see your painting.\nLois

  7. I have a print of ” On guard”. It was my grandmothers. It’s in good condition. It’s so nice to have a little info about the picture. My grandmother lived near Boston. What do you think it is worth? Janet

  8. Hi Janet,\nThanks for writing. “On Guard” is a very popular print with very appealing subject matter. But as to its worth, it would depend on your print’s size and condition, whether and how it is framed, whether or not it is signed, and your area’s local market conditions. I would suggest you show it to a local antique dealer, tell him/her what you know about it and ask for an estimate. Good Luck!\n\nLois

  9. Hi Amy,\nThanks for writing! I’d love to see both the picture and the signature. Can you scan it and email it? Is it on a calendar? The “jr.” part is interesting. When I Googled “A. Pope, Jr.” I got listings for Alexander Pope Jr. Our “A. Pope” was identified by one calendar publisher as “Alan Austin Pope.” So the mystery continues… Hope to hear from you.\nLois

  10. Very interesting! This seems to be more contemporary subject matter, right? We have had a couple of other reports of seemingly newer paintings signed A. Pope. Perhaps a descendant?\nThanks, \nLois

  11. Lois,\n\nI went to an estate sale today and purchased a print signed A. Pope Jr. , last name printed. It is a picture of two adult quails and five chicks in the wild. On the back is “The Valley Quail” (Plate XIII.) over the title, and “Laphortyx Californica (Shaw) Bp. under the title. Then there is a full story of the quail. \n\nIn the left lower corner is what looks like “Armstrong ???” on the first line and “Printing” on the second line.\n\nThe estate sale I went to was the last name Shaw.\n\nThe story is about the common Quail of the Pacific Coast to which it is closely restricted all the way from the columbus river to Cape St. Lucas. It is only found to a height of three or four thousand feet , beyond that it is replaced by the mountain quail (Orcortyx pictus).\n\nIt appears to be extremely old the back of the framed print is nailed in and held by old barn wood. I can not find any dates.\n\nThanks

  12. Hi Hank,\n\nThanks for writing. In checking on the “A. Pope, Jr. “signature, it appears that it may belong to Alexander Pope, a famous artist known for his paintings of wildlife. So, now, I’m thinking that the prints of wildlife attributed to “A.Pope” in the calendar company records probably referred to him, not to the A. Pope who painted from Tonnesen’s photos. At least one calendar has been found that features a print signed “A. Pope” that originated as a Tonnesen photo, along with a flyleaf which refers to the artist as “Alan Austin Pope.” It’s all very confusing and I appreciate your help in trying to unravel the mystery!\nLois

  13. I have a landscape painting of mountains and a river signed in red paint A. Pope. Looking for an estimate of value. Also have lots of other paintings I need help with.

  14. Hello Guy,\nSorry for the delayed response. We have been traveling. Based on information from other site visitors,my best guess is that the “A. Pope” landscape paintings may have been done later than the “A. Popes” that originated as photos by Tonnesen, and probably by a different artist. We have no expertise in art appraisal, but wish you luck in your research.\n\nThanks for writing,\nLois

  15. Hello,\nI really don’t know anything about these wildlife prints or paintings, except that, from what other site visitors have reported, these were probably done by an artist named Alexander Pope or Alexander Pope, Jr. The A. Pope who apparently painted from Beatrice Tonnesen’s photos was identified by the publisher of one of his prints as Alan Austin Pope. So I think these were two different people.\n-Lois

Leave a comment