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

Identifying Tonnesen’s Work: The Unsigned Images – Album 4

In previous articles and Slideshow Albums 1 and 2 (“Introduction” and “Artwork Bearing Signatures and Attributions…”), I reported that many art prints produced between 1900 and the 1930’s began as photos created in the Chicago studio of Beatrice Tonnesen.

Relatively few of these prints were signed by Tonnesen, but many unsigned examples of her work can be identified because:

Unsigned - Tonnesen Sisters1. The images contain props and/or costumes known to have been used by the Tonnesen Studio. Once an item appears in a signed Tonnesen print, its presence in an unsigned print suggests the same point of origin. For example, the fancy footstool shown in Album 2 in Tonnesen’s signed print titled “Where Peace Abides,” is a frequent indicator of Tonnesen’s work. Tonnesen used her props over and over, favoring certain chairs, rugs and costumes that can usually be differentiated from those of other studios. One caveat: In some cases, artists or illustrators painted new backgrounds that were not in the original photo, retaining only the central figure from the original photograph. So those items added by the illustrators are their own creations rather than the photographer’s props. In most cases, this technique seems to have pertained to outdoor, non-studio settings. See the first two images in Album 1 where both exterior backgrounds were added by artists – the first, apparently, by Tonnesen herself and the second, very possibly, by R. A Fox. An example of a painted indoor setting is image 4 in Album 3, which can also be viewed close-up in the section titled “Zoomify an Image,” posted by Sumner. In the original photo by Tonnesen, the nursery decor was non-existent. Because Tonnesen signed the illustration, I assume it was she who added the background painting. Continue reading

Artwork Bearing Signatures or Attributions to Beatrice Tonnesen – Album 2

(This is the second in a series of articles on the works of Beatrice Tonnesen. The first appears below under the heading “Introduction.”)

Sincerely Yours - Beatrice TonnesenBeatrice Tonnesen has not generally been recognized as a major contributor to the so-called “Golden Age of Illustration,” that period in America from about 1900-1940, when calendar art was intensely popular. Artists such as the Hintermeisters, R. Atkinson Fox, Gene Pressler, Zula Kenyon, Arthur Elsley and others carved out lucrative careers by providing the publishers and calendar companies with appealing artwork for mass consumption. Continue reading


These colorful art prints started as black and white photos by Beatrice Tonnesen. Surprised?

Please read on… and view Slideshow Album 1.

If you are a collector of early twentieth-century art prints, calendars or advertising, chances are you have works by Beatrice Tonnesen (1871-1958) in your collection. And you may not even know it!Whispering WatersThat’s because a signed Tonnesen is a relative rarity. Beatrice Tonnesen, a phenomenally successful Chicago-based photographer, was also the artistic genius behind many of the art prints that graced calendars, picture frames and magazine and newspaper ads from the turn of the last century through 1930, and beyond. Most often, it appears, her photos were unsigned and unattributed, purchased by publishers or advertisers, tinted or otherwise enhanced, and copyrighted by them for their own use. A few were signed by Tonnesen and published on her own or by others. In many of those, Tonnesen appears to have painted from her own photographs. Most surprisingly, however, some of her photographs appear to have formed the basis for art prints, painted and signed by other artists of the day. Continue reading