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Lot 0083
This is an antique Victorian-era Tonnesen photo print. This is NOT a copy or repro.

The settings of these prints are so beautiful with ornate furniture, sweet clothing that show that time so well.

Text on bottom:
Tonnesen Sisters
Osgood Co. Chicago
Supplement To Star Tribune Dec 15 1901

SIZE: 7" x 9".

Before the Tonnesen Sisters became known for their art prints, they were known for their pioneering work in advertising. In the 1890's, they came up with the idea of using live models in advertising photos. With Beatrice handling the creative work and Clara tending to business affairs, they marketed their historic new technique nationwide, with phenomenal success.

In 1895, Tonnesen opened her first photographic art studio in Menominee, Michigan. While operating that studio, Tonnesen traveled to Chicago and arranged to purchase the business and studio of a prominent society photographer, S.L. Stein, at 1301 Michigan Avenue. Her widowed sister, Clara Tonnesen Kirkpatrick, invested in the project and relocated to Chicago to handle the business aspects of her sister's new venture. Tonnesen quickly became a favorite portrait photographer of many of Chicago's most prominent families, including the Armours, Pullmans, and Palmers. But portrait photography did not remain her only specialty for long. She and her sister Clara soon hit upon an idea that was to revolutionize the world of print advertising. As Tonnesen herself put it in an interview with the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern in 1954: "One day we thought up a fine scheme. We would make advertising pictures using live models, which had never been done before." The idea took off, and Tonnesen and her "Famous Tonnesen Models" gained nationwide fame. A 1903 advertisement "Introducing The Famous Tonnesen Models" proclaimed, "We operate the largest Photographic Print establishment in America."

At the same time, Tonnesen was cultivating a specialty in calendar art. Creating photos of appealing family scenes, as well as more risque (for the time) studies of beautiful ingenues and glamorous flappers, Tonnesen sold her work not only to advertisers, but also to publishers and artists. A November 18, 1896 article in The Chicago Daily Tribune titled "Ideas for Dull Artists" outlined the various uses of Tonnesen's photos: Advertisers often used them with little or no alteration; publishers often assigned staff illustrators to embellish or paint them using water color, pastels or oils; and independent artists painted from them, capitalizing on Tonnesen's talent for posing and composition, in order to meet the demands of the rapidly expanding art publishing trade. Two of the era's more successful calendar artists, R. Atkinson Fox (1860-1935) and Homer S. Nelson, who specialized in romanticized depictions of Indian maidens, are among artists known to have painted from Tonnesen's photos.

Her very early work was signed "Tonnesen Sisters." But throughout most of her career, because she sold so much of her work to others for their own use, her name or signature seldom appeared on the final product. Those relatively few pieces which she painted from her own photographs were signed "Beatrice Tonnesen," and can still be found on calendars from approximately 1900-1930. Although she is known to have taken thousands of images throughout her career, no original glass plate negatives have ever been located. Small collections of original photos, paintings and prints are all that are known to remain. Most of the original photos are located at the Oshkosh Public Museum and the Winneconne Historical Society. Some few art researchers, relatives of persons associated with Tonnesen during her career, and historians are known to have collections, and a digital collection is retained at the Beatrice Tonnesen website. Her personal scrapbook was restored for the Oshkosh Public Museum and made available for study.


Majority is in excellent condition - a little edge chipping. One tiny tear, one small dog ear. Two small tears at bottom, one soft corner, light handling wear. These were printed on pretty fragile paper so you don't see a lot around.

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TONNESEN SISTERS Rare 1901 Print-Sweet Girl/St. Bernard

Auction ended on Thu, Mar 27, 2014
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