Tunis Ponsen

by Susan S. Weininger




1 HirschI and Adler Galleries, The Paintings, Drawings and Lithographs of William S. Schwartz with essay by Douglas Dreishpoon (New York: HirschI and Adler Galleries, Inc., 1984); Maureen A. McKenna, Emil Armin: 1883-1971 (Springfield: Illinois State Museum, 1980; Maureen McKenna, Julia Thecla: 1896-1973 (Springfield, Illinois: Illinois State Museum, c. 1985); Susan Weininger, Gertrude Abercrombie and Friends (Springfield, Illinois: Illinois State Museum, 1983); Kent Smith and Susan Weininger, Gertrude Abercrombie (Springfield, Illinois: Illinois State Museum, 1994); Mandeville Gallery, Belle Baranceanu - A Retrospective with essays by Bram Dijkstra and Anne Weaver (La Jolla, California: University of California, San Diego, 1985); ACA Galleries, Anthony Angarola: An American Modernist with essay by Matthew Baigell (New York: ACA Galleries, 1988); Betty Rymer Gallery, A Tribute to Kathleen Blackshear with essay by Carole Tormollan (Chicago: School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1990); Wendy Greenhouse and Susan Weininger, A Rediscovered Regionalist: Herman Menzel (Chicago: Chicago Historical Society, 1994); Illinois State Museum, John Warner Norton with essays by Jim 1. Zimmer and Richard N. Murray (Springfield, Illinois: Illinois State Museum, 1993); Jontyle Theresa Robinson and Wendy Greenhouse, The Art of Archibald J. Motley, Jr. (Chicago: Chicago Historical Society, 1991); . Dawson and Jonson have received more extensive treatment in print. For Dawson see especially Mary Mathews Gedo, Manierre Dawson (1887-1969): A Retrospective Exhibition of Painting (Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1976); for Jonson's early years in Chicago see especially Ed Garman, The Art of Raymond Jonson, Painter (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1976), Elizabeth Ann McCauley, intro., Raymond Jonson: The Early Years (Albuquerque: Art Museum, University of New Mexico, 1980). In addition to these catalogs, extensive information about Chicago artists is found in Esther Sparks, A Biographical Dictionary of Painters and Sculptors in Illinois, 1808-1945 (Ph.D. dissertation, Northwestern University,1971) which includes an entry on Ponsen.

2 J. Z.Jacobson, Art of Today: Chicago, 1933 (Chicago: 1. M. Stein, 1932). Published on the eve of the Century of Progress, the World's Fair that was a celebration of technology and modernity, Jacobson's book was an attempt to boost the mostly unappreciated modern Chicago artists who worked in the city.

3 Aside from a very few exhibition catalogs, the major publications dealing with this group are those of William Gerdts, Art Across America: Two Centuries of Regional Painting 1710-1920 (New York: Abbeville Press, 1990) and American Impressionism (New York: Abbeville Press, 1984).

4 There is one early reference commercial work among Ponsen's papers. A letter dated 2 October 1926 from Gibson Catlett of Gibson Catlett's Studio informs Ponsen that because of diminished business he will no longer be employed doing real estate exhibits. He does praise Ponsen's work and promise him a bonus, however. Ponsen was a graduate student at the School of the Art Institute, judging from the fact that he is listed in the closing ceremony brochure in spring, 1927 as having won several honorable mentions. Taking on commercial work would have been logical considering his almost certainly difficult financial circumstances. This information is among Ponsen's papers. The Tunis Ponsen papers belong to Angenita Morris, Ponsen's niece, who generously made them available for the research on this essay, hereinafter referred to as the Ponsen papers. Most of my information on Ponsen was dependent on this material and the extensive chronology compiled by Pat Coffey, who graciously shared it with me well in advance of my writing of this essay.

5 Newspaper clipping from the Christian Science Monitor, 26 May 1932, Ponsen papers.

6 The Previewer, "Portraits on Exhibition in New Gallery Show," undated clipping, Ponsen papers.

7 See the undated clipping in the Ponsen papers which discusses The Repair Gang of ca. 1930. The unidentified author of the article says of Ponsen, "Frankly he protests that he builds only as he sees, regardless of theories."

8 For the modernists in Chicago, see Susan Weininger, "Modernism and Chicago Art: 1910-1940," in Sue Ann Prince, ed. The Old Guard and the Avant-Garde (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990,59-75.

9 Jacobson, Art of Today, pp. xvii-xviii.

10 Ponsen kept a signed photograph of Falise and a pamphlet of World War I cartoons by Raemakers among his belongings, attesting to their importance to him. They are in the Ponsen papers.

11 This information comes primarily from handwritten notes, probably for a lecture that Ponsen delivered on the occasion of the 1967 retrospective exhibition of his work at the Hackley Gallery. It varies a little bit in its chronology from that in the 1931 brochure for Ponsen's exhibition there in which his first classes with Kensler are dated to 1921. It is possible that he sketched with Kensler before formally enrolling in classes.

12 See the reviews of his exhibitions by Lulu Miller in the Muskegon press in his scrapbook, Ponsen papers. A typed list of works in the 1922 exhibition is in the Ponsen papers. Of the 26 works exhibited, nine are marked sold. Many portraits were done on commission and belonged to the sitters. The Portrait of Al Boelkins (1929), a Muskegon native, formerly in the collection of the Muskegon Museum of Art may be a reflection of some of these early portraits. A portrait of Boelkins (perhaps preliminary to the 1929 version), an old friend who also worked as a paperhanger and decorator, was exhibited in Ponsen's 1923 Hackley show. A newspaper obituary of 17 November 1958 from The Muskegon Chronicle is in the Ponsen papers.

13 For the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, see Charlotte Moser, "'In the Highest Efficiency': Art Training at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago," in Prince, ed., Old Guard, 193-208.

14 Buehr, in addition, painted figural impressionist scenes. See Gerdts, Art Across America 2:316.

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