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