Jessie Arms Botke (1883-1971)

Born in Chicago in 1883, Jessie Botke is known for her exotic, highly decorated bird studies, especially elegant plumages of peacocks. She also did other subjects including Indian figures, genre, and desert landscapes, and usually painted in oil but worked in watercolor and gouache and frequently used gold and silver leaf in backgrounds.

 

She received art training at the Chicago Art Institute from John Johanson and spent a summer with Charles Woodbury in Ogunquit, Maine. She traveled in Europe and in 1911 moved to New York City where she became a student of Albert Herter and worked at Herter Looms until 1915, becoming a specialist in tapestry cartoons. She also worked with Herter doing all of the birds on a mural for the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco and with Herter's wife as a private home decorator.

 

Returning to Chicago, she married Dutch-born Cornelius Botke, and they worked on murals together in Chicago for the Kellogg Company and the University of Chicago, Noyes Hall.

 

By 1906, Botke had arranged an exchange of her paintings for a trip West on the Santa Fe Railroad to Arizona and California, and the Railroad acquired works titled "Hopi Indian Life" and "California Missions". She exhibited some of these western-subject paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago.

 

In 1918, the couple first visited California together, and in 1920, settled on a ten-acre ranch near Santa Paula, California, although they traveled in Europe from 1923 to 1925. In 1927, they moved to southern California, living in Wheeler Canyon near Santa Paula.

 

After twelve years of semi-nomadic existence, the Botkes finally settled in Wheeler Canyon in southern California, outside of Santa Paula. This would be her home until her death in 1971. It was here that her characteristic work was developed: bold, decorative paintings of exotic birds.

 

From about 1917 her work won many awards both in Chicago and Southern California. Member: Calif. Art Club; Calif. WC Society; Nat'l Ass'n of Women Artists; Carmen AA; Chicago Society of Etchers.

 

Exhibited: AIC NAD; PAFA; LACMA; CPLH; Springville (Utah) High School, 1928; GGIE, 1939; Paris Salon.

 

Awards: Cahn prize, AIC, 1918, Shaffer prize, 1926, Carpenter prize, Chicago Society for Sanity in Art, 1938.

 

Works held: Art Institute of Chicago; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; Municipal Gallery, Chicago; Mills College, Oakland; San Diego Museum.

 

Murals: I Magnin Co. of Los Angeles; Woodrow Wilson High School in Oxnard, CA; Noyes Hall at the Univ. of Chicago; Kellogg Factory, Battle Creek, MI

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