New Discovery: Signed Tonnesen Print Contains Fox-like Elements, Vintage Doll

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It’s always a thrill to find a signed Tonnesen image that I have never before seen! But this one is especially interesting, featuring elements that further connect Tonnesen’s work with that of her colleague R. Atkinson Fox (1870 – 1935), as well as providing a closeup view of a vintage baby doll that allowed me to confirm another print in my collection as a Tonnesen. Both prints, seen here in the accompanying slideshow, are examples of the work Tonnesen did in the last decade of her career, and they feature two beautiful child models who seem to have been among her favorites.

I have seen the child in the signed print in photos by Tonnesen that appeared as prints with copyrights dated 1921 to 1927. Always pensive, never smiling, I believe she also appears in at least one image painted by R. Atkinson Fox under his DeForest pseudonym. Fox collectors can see her in DeForest’s “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not,” [included in the Beatrice Tonnesen Catalog Album 8] in which she appears alongside a young admirer posed by fellow Tonnesen model William Redmond (1908-1992). Meanwhile, the flowery background is reminiscent of other Fox prints, notably DeForest’s “Age of Innocence” [included in the Beatrice Tonnesen Catalog Album 7] in which Tonnesen model Virginia Waller (1913-2006) holds yet another vintage doll.

The second print, titled “Guard Duty” and found unsigned on a 1930 calendar, features another child model seen in photos from the Tonnesen archives in both the Oshkosh Public Museum and the Winneconne Historical Society, with inventory numbers that date them to the mid-1920s. The doll the child is holding appears to be the same one as in the signed Tonnesen print, convincing me that this image, too, is by Tonnesen. I had believed this to be Tonnesen’s work, based not only on the presence of the Tonnesen model, but on the photographer’s posing of the sleeping child on the makeshift prop, just as Tonnesen did in her photo titled “On Guard” (owned by Oshkosh Public Museum). “On Guard” later became a painting by A. Pope, shown and titled “Safely Guarded” on a 1927 calendar print. In Pope’s work, the prop is painted over to become part of the landscape. This post and slideshow from October, 2010 contain both images.

Copyright 2014 Lois Emerson

Two Prints by Tonnesen Sisters Found in Bournemouth, England

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A site visitor, Helen Joy of Bournemouth, England recently contacted us about two prints, both copyright 1900, found behind the framed photo of one of her husband’s ancestors. I recognized one of the prints from her description, but the other was new to me. The prints are interesting for a couple of reasons. First, although Beatrice Tonnesen spoke about having an international clientele, these are the first that we know of that have surfaced overseas that don’t bear the name of a US publisher. Second, while I recognized one of the prints as the romantic image of a woman shown blowing bubbles, the other print, a whimsical image of a woman holding the leaf of a corn plant over her head, shown in this slideshow courtesy of Helen Joy, was new to me. Not only that, the woman in the corn seemed to be part of a series of agriculturally-themed images that were most likely taken at the same time. When I see a series of prints like this, I can almost imagine how Beatrice Tonnesen spent one of her workdays, posing one image after another, each appealing on its own, but illustrating a theme when seen altogether.

The images, in the order in which they appear in the slideshow are: Untitled image of a woman with a corn leaf, courtesy Helen Joy; and “Pigs in Clover”; “Country Gossip”; “A Hay Seed”; and the untitled image of a woman blowing bubbles, all by Tonnesen Sisters and all shown elsewhere on this website.

Copyright 2014 Lois Emerson

“Finishing Touches”- Free Print with Purchase of Johnson’s Baby Powder

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Before the Tonnesen Sisters were known for their calendar prints, they were known for supplying photos of live models for advertising purposes. Early photographic and advertising journals featured examples of their work, touting everything from soap to farm machinery. I’ve also seen ads for various products that offered prints by Tonnesen, either free or for a nominal cost, as a reward for purchasing the product. I’ve always found those ads tantalizing, as they generally listed the prints by title without showing the actual print, leaving me to wonder what masterpiece I’ve missed! Finally, however, I have one of those illusive advertising premiums – “Finishing Touches,” a 1901 “art platograph” by Tonnesen Sisters, free to every purchaser of Johnson’s Baby Powder. I’ve scanned both front and back and posted it here.

The print itself is notable in several respects. First, in all of my reading of vintage photographic journals, I have never seen anything labled an “art platograph.” Maybe there’s a photography buff out there who will know about it. Also, I note that the vanity table and bench appear to be illustrated – not part of the original photograph. The leaded glass window was part of Tonnesen’s studio set, so it was in the original photo, but I don’t know about the screen. The child appeared often in Tonnesen’s work ca. 1900, and I believe she was a well-known Chicago child model named Edna Clifford.

Copyright 2014 Lois Emerson

Five Fabulous Finds that Focus on Beautiful Women

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Beatrice Tonnesen’s favorite photographic subjects were beautiful women and scenes from family life. The latest additions to my collection feature a number of images from both categories. I’ll be posting some great “new” family-themed prints, as well as several newly found images of the toddler in Tonnesen’s “Sunny Jim” series this fall.

But, first, I’m presenting five calendar prints of beautiful women that originated as photos taken between about 1914 and 1928. In order of their appearance in the accompanying slideshow, they are:

  1. Unnamed lady wearing a dress that was one of Tonnesen’s early favorites on an unmarked 1921 calendar.
  2. “Anne,” appearing on a 1922 calendar marked only “Nr. 322 Hand-Colored.”Anne sits on Tonnesen’s swing, wearing Tonnesen’s dress.
  3. “Sweet Alice,” a model who appeared often in advertising during the late teens and early ’20s, as well as in a number of Tonnesen’s images, and who wears one of Tonnesen’s dresses on a 1923 calendar, published by R.C. Co. NY. A purported biography of Alice appears on the calendar backing underneath the print. However, it must be fictional, as it describes her as a socialite who was not a professional model.
  4. “Dimples,” on an unmarked calendar back. It is a companion piece to an image in the collection of the Winneconne Historical Society. The model is believed to be Eva Grady (1899-1934).
  5. Untitled, on an unmarked 1932 calendar. This is part of a series of photos taken by Tonnesen at the end of her career in Chicago. Others in the series appear in Album 9 of the Image Catalogue that can be accessed at the top of our home page. I believe R.A. Fox’s print “Meditation” originated from a photo in this same series.

Copyright 2014. Lois Emerson

Colorful Print Advertised McCormick-International Harvester Company

McCormick-International Harvester Ad

McCormick-International Harvester Ad

Back in March of 2012, we posted images of three glass negative plates produced around 1900 in the Tonnesen Sisters studio and provided to us by Lee Grady, archivist of the McCormick-International Harvester Collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society. Now, we have found an example of the full color print that resulted from one of the glass negatives. Interestingly, the printed image is the reverse of the negative image! Here is the newly found color image (of the young boy with the bearded man), along with the entire original post from 2012.

[Click the image to the right for a larger version.]

Following is from the March 27, 2012 post titled:BT Photos Used in McCormick-International Harvester Ads“;

Recently, Lee Grady, Archivist for the McCormick-International Harvester Collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society wrote us with information concerning some glass negatives, or glass plates in the historical society's collection. From roughly 1900 through 1930, the company produced a series of calendars and posters promoting a wide range of farm implements. He had discovered that two of the negatives were marked “Tonnesen Sisters” and, though the company often shot its own photos for advertising purposes, there were others that were unmarked and unidentified.

The collection contains about 500,000 photo-based images, about 12,000 of which are in the form of glass plate negatives. So it was impossible to look at everything. But Grady selected about a dozen Tonnesen “maybes” and sent them to us. As of now, after examining the clothing and the props, we have identified only one more, for a total of three, but we will keep searching!

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The slideshow at right displays the images of Tonnesen's work found in the McCormick-International Harvester Archive, Wisconsin Historical Society (All rights reserved). Here is what we know about each of these images:

  1. “Pigs in Clover” by the Tonnesen Sisters. The model, often seen in Tonnesen's work ca. 1900, wears a dress that seems to have been one of Tonnesen's favorites. It appears in “The Hay Seed,” shown elsewhere on this blog, probably the most popular of her early photos.
  2. An original photo from this glass negative is owned by the Oshkosh Public Museum. The Tonnesen Sisters signature appears in the hay at bottom left. On the back is written: “International Harvester Calendar Design $75. Dorothy”. The name “Dorothy” is one of several noted on the backs of various photos during that time. I think it may refer to the person who handled the details of the transaction. It appears that IHC bought the negative for $75!
  3. This is the finished, colored 1902 poster that started as the photo described above.
  4. I am virtually certain this image was created by the Tonnesen Sisters, based on the fact that the child is wearing the same shirt and overalls, and probably the same hat, as the child in Image #2. I also think that this child and the child in #2 are one and the same.

These, and thousands of other images, including company and family photos, as well as vintage artwork can be viewed, and in most cases purchased, at Wisconsin Historical Society.

Copyright 2014 Lois Emerson

Update: Another Image of Lucille Ricksen Surfaces

Lucille Ricksen

Lucille Ricksen (click for larger image)

Back in January, I posted a 1919 calendar print titled “A Little Bit of Heaven.” Published by The K.T. Co from a photo and painting by Beatrice Tonnesen, it featured two little girls in a setting of filmy drapes and daisies. At the time, I knew one model to be Virginia Waller (1913-2006) and I suspected the other to be Lucille Ricksen (1910-1925), who left Chicago for Hollywood in 1920, found stardom and died tragically five years later. After I posted the image, silent film expert Michael Ankerich confirmed Ricksen’s identity.

Now, in May, I find myself frantically trying to organize my Tonnesen collection in preparation for our impending move from England back to the US. In sorting through a box of prints I hadn’t thought of in ages, I found this previously unidentified gem. With “A Little Bit of Heaven” implanted in my recent memory, I recognized Lucille instantly in this unsigned, undated print titled “Golden-Hearted Daisies.” I also recognized it as “Heaven’s” companion-piece, two images- both later published as calendar prints- that no doubt came from one photo shoot.

Copyright 2014 Lois Emerson