Theme/Style – Modernism, Impressionism, animals, nature, figurative art, landscape, still life, decorative art
Media – Oils, watercolors, pastel, murals, block prints, illustrations
Artistic Focus – Consistent in style throughout her lifelong career, Jessie Arms Botke enjoyed both critical and commercial success as a painter of bold, decorative paintings of birds, underwater life, and the flora and fauna of numerous geographic locations. Her work was generally ornate, highly decorative, bright and lively, and always representational, no matter the artistic trend of the time in which it was painted. She was known for her technically demanding large canvases, many of which featured gold leaf treatments in an art decoesque style.
Career Highlights –
- Born Jessie Hazel Arms in Chicago, Illinois in 1883, Jessie Arms Botke’s interest in art began at an early age, with classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago when she was only 14 years old. She continued there as a full-time student from 1902 to 1905, and in additional classes through 1910. During this time Botke also took summer classes with John C. Johansen in Saugatuck, Michigan and Charles Woodbury in Ogunquit, Maine, and also worked as a decorator and book illustrator.
- In 1906 Botke negotiated a round trip to Arizona and California with Chicago’s Santa Fe Railway Company in exchange for paintings, and she produced paintings of western subjects including Native American life and California missions.
- Botke created decorative friezes on commission in Chicago in 1911, and later that year moved to New York, where she created tapestry decorations at the Herter Looms until 1915. Her skill at painting birds was noticed by Albert Herter, and she was asked to do all the birds in his tapestry commissions for San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel in 1913-1914.
- She married fellow artist Cornelius Botke in 1915, and she and her husband worked together on murals in Chicago until 1919. They subsequently moved to California, living in Carmel until 1927.
- After spending a brief period in Los Angeles, in 1929 the Botkes moved to their final home, a ranch in Wheeler Canyon, Santa Paula, California.
- In 1930 Botke had solo shows at the Paul Elder Gallery in San Francisco, Vose Galleries in Boston, and Grand Central Art Galleries in New York, where she had another solo show in 1962.
- Botke exhibited at San Francisco’s Golden Gate International Exhibition in 1939; and also in 1939, Jessie and Cornelis Botke painted murals in Los Angeles’s I. Magnin department store.
- In the 1940s, Botke added smaller watercolors and oil paintings to her repertoire after discovering they were commercially popular and easier to produce. However, she never abandoned her love of the highly stylish, intricate paintings that first brought her fame.
- In 1953 Botke, assisted by her husband, Cornelis, painted a 7-by-26-foot mural for the ballroom of the Oaks Hotel in Ojai, California. The mural, painted on canvas and depicting the Florida Everglades, remained there for 40 years until the hotel was renovated and the mural was removed, preserved, and gifted to California’s Irvine Museum.
- Botke remained active as a painter late into her life, working on trains as she traveled from California to the Midwest and East Coast, and following the death of her husband in 1954, she painted in Hawaii.
- Throughout her career, Botke received support from numerous critics, including Alma May Cook of the Los Angeles Herald Tribune. Besides the venues mentioned above, Botke’s extensive exhibition record includes prizes at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Society for Sanity in Art, and the Los Angeles County and California State Fairs; as well as group shows at the Paris Salon, the National Academy of Design in New York, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Pacific Southwest Exposition in Long Beach, California, and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Her work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Fleischer Museum in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the Irvine Museum and San Diego Museum of Art in California.
- Jessie Arms Botke passed away in Santa Paula, California in 1971. There was a solo exhibition of her work at the Ventura County Historical Museum (now the Museum of Ventura County) in 1984.
Selection of Works by this Artist
Bibliographic references are available upon request.