Jessie Arms Botke

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"White Peacocks in Floral Garden"
Oil on canvas
26 x 46 inches

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Jessie Hazel Arms was born on May 27, 1883, in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of William Aldis and Martha Arms, and grew up there with an interest in art. Even before entering high school, she attended youth classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1897 to 1898. After graduating from Lake View High School in 1902, she received a scholarship to attend Chicago University but was persuaded by her mother to attend the Chicago Art Institute instead. Jessie continued with summer classes with artists John C. Johansen in Michigan in 1903 and Charles Woodbury in Maine in 1904. Enjoying working in decorative arts, Jessie worked for several interior design studios and as a book illustrator for a number of years and, in 1909, made a short trip to Europe. Subsequently, after doing decorative friezes on commission in Chicago, in 1911 she obtained employment doing tapestry cartoons and decorations at the Herter Looms in New York City. Working there until 1915, she developed a particular talent for painting birds and proved so skilled at it that Albert Herter had her do all the birds in his tapestry commissions for the Saint Francis Hotel in San Francisco from 1913 to 1914.

Upon returning to Chicago in 1915, she married fellow artist Cornelis Botke in Leonia, New Jersey. Together, the couple worked on a project commissioned for the Ida Noyes Hall at the Chicago University until 1919. Having visited California the previous year, the couple decided to move to Carmel, California, where they resided until 1927, except for a two-year stay in Europe from 1923 to 1924. After a brief period in Los Angeles, they settled on a ranch in Wheeler Canyon, Santa Paula, California in 1929 where Jessie remained until her death on October 2, 1971.

Decorative studies of birds, particularly peacocks, remained Jessie’s forte throughout her life, both in oil and watercolor, often using gold leaf in her paintings. Yet she also did other subjects. As early as 1906, she negotiated a round trip to Arizona and California with the Santa Fe Railway Company, Chicago, in exchange for paintings. The company acquired her canvases, Hopi Indian Life and California Missions, in 1907. In the same year, she exhibited a number of California subjects at the Art Institute of Chicago, among them Mission Houses and Orange Grove. During her long Santa Paula residency, she also did studies of fish; other California scenes, including desert and Sierra views; and murals. From about 1917 her work won many awards both in Chicago and Southern California.

Member: California Art Club; California Watercolor Society; Carmel Art Association; Chicago Society of Etchers; National Association of Women Artists.

Exhibited: Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, 1918, 1926; Friday Morning Club, Los Angeles, California, 1921; Paris Salon, France, 1924; Art Institute of Chicago, 1926; National Academy of Design, New York; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco; Pacific Southwest Exposition, Long Beach, 1928; Springville High School, Utah, 1928; Los Angeles County Fair, 1934, 1938; California State Fair, 1934, 1940; Chicago Society for Sanity in Art, 1938; Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco, 1939; Ventura County Historical Museum, 1984.

Works held: Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Pennsylvania: Municipal Gallery, Chicago, Illinois; Mills College, Oakland, California; Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California; San Diego Museum of Art, California.

Murals: I. Magnin, Los Angeles; Kellogg Factory, Battle Creek, Missouri; Noyes Hall, University of Chicago, Illinois; Union League Club, Chicago, Illinois; Woodrow Wilson High School, Oxnard, California.

Artists in California: 1786-1940 by Edan Milton Hughes. Botke-McComas-Seidneck by Carmel Art Association. Emerging from the Shadows: A Survey of Women Artists Working in California, 1860-1960, Volume I by Maurine St. Gaudens, 2015.