R.A. Fox Painted his “Children’s Hour” from Photo by Tonnesen

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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

New Finds Provide Better Look at Tonnesen’s Indian Maiden


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Back in 2009, an original photo by Beatrice Tonnesen was discovered at the Winneconne Historical Society in Winneconne, WI. The photo showed a beautiful dark-haired woman dressed as an Indian maiden. I recognized the image as one titled “Dawn of Woman” and attributed to illustrator Homer Nelson in a book about vintage calendar illustration. The find at Winnecone proved that Nelson had painted from a photo by Tonnesen. Unfortunately, I did not have Nelson’s print in my collection, so the only way to show the image on this blog was to post the small black and white picture that was shown in the book.

Then, in 2010, I found three photos of a Chicago beauty queen, Mary Simmonds (1895 – 1976), as shown in 1921 in The Chicago Tribune in an online archive. The images were not the best, but they were good enough to cause me to speculate that Simmonds had modeled for the Tonnesen photo that became Nelson’s “Dawn of Woman.” So, I posted them.

And that was that, until recently, when I found and purchased a 1925 calendar with an original color print of “Dawn of Woman.” Then, a few weeks later, while cleaning my hobby room, I discovered that I had an original issue of a 1921 Chicago Tribune showing two very clear images of the same photos of Mary Simmonds! I had bought a stack of 1920’s papers years ago, and I guess I never really looked through them! I’ve now scanned both the original calendar and the original newspaper photos and am thrilled to be able to share them in the slideshow at right.

Seeing these originals has made me even more inclined to believe that Mary Simmonds portrayed this Indian maiden. I also believe she was the model for another beautiful Indian maiden print titled “Whispering Waters,” signed by Beatrice Tonnesen and shown in Album 1 of the Tonnesen Catalogue on this blog. Census information shows that Simmonds married James O’Grady in November of 1921 and remained in Chicago, raising eight sons. This gives me hope that there are some O’grady relatives out there somewhere, with some photos by Tonnesen as mementoes of their ancestor’s career!

For more on “Dawn of Woman,” including an image of Tonnesen’s original black and white photo, and on Mary Simmonds, see our two previous posts: June 8, 2009 “Homer Nelson Print Features Tonnesen’s Indian Maiden,” and June 26, 2010 “Indian Maiden May Have Been Chicago Beauty Queen.”

Copyright 2012 Lois Emerson



Captivating Toddler A 1920s Favorite

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:
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