During the 1920’s, famed calendar artist R. Atkinson Fox (1860-1935) shared Beatrice Tonnesen’s Chicago studio. Fox is known to have painted from some of Tonnesen’s photos, and a photo found at the Winneconne (WI) Historical Society appears to be a companion to the source photo for Fox’s “The Children’s Hour”, which is signed with Fox’s pseudonym “DeForest.”
Around 1923, Tonnesen created a photo portraying a beautiful young mother reading to her two children. The scene went on to become an unsigned calendar print titled “The Morning Lesson.” “The Children’s Hour” is a variation on “The Morning Lesson” – same people, same clothing, same theme – only a different placement of the people in the room and different coloring and illustrated backgrounds. So it’s likely that both source photos were the products of the same photo shoot.
Even without seeing the Winneconne photo, it is clear that “The Children’s Hour” originated in Tonnesen’s studio. The chair and rug appear often in photos confirmed to be by Tonnesen. The accompanying slideshow features “The Children’s Hour”, in which “Mom” sits in the middle, between the children, followed by the original photo found at Winneconne, in which “Mom” sits on the left, and “The Morning Lesson,” which came from the Winneconne photo, and may or may not have been illustrated by R. Atkinson Fox. Other prints by R.A. Fox that are known to have originated as photos by Tonnesen are “The Barefoot Boy” (See Album 1 in the catalog) and “The Glory of Youth” (Use the search box on the right side of this page.)
Copyright 2014 Lois Emerson
Cute kids sell calendars! And Beatrice Tonnesen obviously knew a cute photo subject when she saw one. More than a dozen Tonnesen-produced images of this chubby, curly-haired charmer have surfaced, many of them originally appearing on calendars and other advertising goods during the mid to late 1920’s. At least two prominent artists of the time, C.C. Zwaan (1882-1964) and R. Atkinson Fox (1860-1935), as well as Tonnesen herself, apparently painted from photos of this toddler.
One of Tonnesen’s photos shows the child holding a newspaper. Its headline refers to a late November, 1922 event. If that date can be used as a guide, I would guess the child was born in late 1920 or early 1921. Interestingly, some of the photos portray him/her as a girl, others as a boy. It appears the child modeled for a period of at least several months to a year, portraying a girl in later photos. Then there are some prints of an older girl, perhaps four or five years old, who may be this same child.
The slideshow at right, displays this seemingly ever-playful and good-natured toddler in a variety of poses and settings. Images are of original prints from my collection, unless otherwise noted. Here’s the information I have on each of them: