Tunis Ponsen

by Susan S. Weininger



15 Betts lived from 1873-1961. See Sparks, Biographical Dictionary 1:280 and Union League Club, American Art in the Union League Club of Chicago: A Centennial Exhibition with essay by Esther Sparks (Chicago: Union League Club, 1980),8-9.

16 Ponsen's work is almost all undated. I have used a variety of methods to place his work chronologically. Sometimes there are references to the works in exhibition records or newspaper articles. Variations in titles and the fact that Ponsen often did several versions of one image creates a subset of problems with this method. At best, it yields a general terminus for the composition because many of the paintings seem to have been exhibited over a period of years and were not necessarily done immediately before the exhibition. The only reference I have come across that relates specifically to the Arrangement with Eggs, for example, is in a review by Edith Weigle of the South Side Art Association Summer Show of 1941 in which she describes Ponsen's prize winning painting as a "Still life with onions, sprouts, eggs in an overturned bowl and pitcher." While this seems to be the same painting, 1941 seems to be too late a date for its creation based on its style (there are other references to still life paintings by Ponsen in exhibition reviews but without a reproduction or description there is no way of associating this evidence with a specific painting). Ponsen travelled to a variety of places to paint and the pictures relating to those locales can sometimes be dated to the time of the particular trip. For example, he painted in Provincetown in the summer of 1926, so the paintings with Provincetown subjects would generally be dated accordingly. However, Ponsen often did watercolor sketches that.he developed into oil paintings in his studio after his return home. In fact, this became his standard practice fairly early in his career. So it is not at all certain that the paintings Ponsen exhibited with titles referring to European or East Coast trips were actually done in situ, immediately upon returning or even several years later. A general sense of development of both style and attitude toward subject matter emerges from a study of the works which can be dated with certainty, and I have used this as a framework for placing the works for which there is no external or internal clue to date of production; other evidence could easily emerge which would alter my dating.

17 School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Graduation Program, 1924, Ponsen papers.

18 Ponsen won Class Honorable Mention for Figure and Head painting in 1927, School of the Art Institute Closing Exercises, Ponsen papers.

19 Nancy Hale and Fredson Bowers, Leon Kroll: A Spoken Memoir (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1983),59.

20 Hale and Bowers, Kroll, 59.

21 For Hawthorne see Gerdts, Art Across America, 1 :55-56 and Union League Club, Centennial Exhibition, 15.

22 For Beneker, see Gerdts, Art across America, 1:57, where Beneker is referred to as "the most directly indebted to his teacher [Hawthorne]."

23 Taking into consideration the difficulties in connecting particular works with exhibition records, as well as Ponsen's practice of working from watercolor sketches in his studio -- theoretically enabling him to use the sketches he made on the spot as the basis for paintings made years later -- the exhibition history of Low Tide, based on existing evidence, is as follows: Association of Chicago Painters and Sculptors, Chicago Galleries Association, 1941, #42; South Side Art Association (Windermere Hotel), 1945; South Side Art Association (Mandel Brothers), n.d.; Renaissance Society Members Show, ca. early 1950s; All Illinois Society of the Fine Arts, ca. 1954; Hackley Museum of Art, 1967.

24 The Village Windmill, for example, was exhibited in the Michigan Artists show at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1934 (#260); it is reproduced as one of the items of interest in the exhibition in the Detroit Free Press, December 1933, Ponsen papers.

25 Ponsen's painting, Rock Quarry, was exhibited. It is listed in the catalog, A Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1933), 74, #618. According to the catalog, the painting measured 19-3/4" x 23-3/4" so it cannot be the large Stone Quarry (cat. #24) in the present exhibition. It may, however, be a smaller version of this work.

26 Records of the consignment and the references to exhibits including Ponsen's Century of Progress paintings are in the Ponsen papers. The popularity of the subject among Chicago artists is attested to by the exhibitions devoted to the subject. For example, Ponsen was involved in an exhibition sponsored by the Lighting Institute at their Gallery which included 25 paintings by eight artists of night scenes of the fair and an exhibition of eight artists at the Antique Galleries of Marshall Field's (Department Store).

27 Smith and Weininger, Abercrombie, 14; this quote is from a taped interview Abercrombie made with Studs Terkel in 1977.

28 A brochure in the Ponsen papers refers to an exhibit featuring Winter Scene, along with other works of art acquired by the School from the PWAP, on May 23, 1935. The PWAP had officially ended on June 30, 1934.

29 Public Works of Art Project, Report of the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury to Federal Emergency Relief Administrator (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1934) includes Ponsen on p. 69, listing his address as 1031 East 45th Street, Chicago. He is also listed on the easel painting project of the IAP, although misspelled as Tunis Posen, in George J. Mavigliano and Richard A. Lawson, The Federal Art Project in Illinois 1935-43 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1990), 130. For the art projects in Illinois, see also Maureen McKenna, After the Great Crash: New Deal Art in Illinois (Springfield: Illinois State Museum, 1983).

30 A letter of 1 February 1940 from Frances Cordes to Ponsen states that she is sorry "that you have not been faring well from your painting," Ponsen papers.

31 This painting is reproduced in Jacobson, Art of Today, 56.

32 In 1949, he exhibited Storm Clouds in Spring in the Chicago and Vicinity Show (no. 200). He also exhibits for the last time at the Michigan Artists Exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1937, where he had exhibited regularly since 1927.

33 For postwar developments in Chicago art see Franz Schulze, Fantastic Images (Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, 1972).

34 For Abercrombie, see Weininger, Gertrude Abercrombie and Friends, Smith and Weininger, Gertrude Abercrombie and Rockford College Art Gallery, The 'New Woman' in Chicago with essay and biographies by Susan Weininger (Rockford, Illinois: Rockford College Art Gallery, 1993).



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