A multi-talented artist, Blanche Ostertag did not limit herself to one medium; rather, she alternated between the production of book illustrations, etchings, monotypes, pastels, and paintings during her lifetime. Following a short course of study at the St. Louis Art Museum, Ostertag traveled to Paris to further her training at the Académie Julian. She later returned to America and took up residence in Chicago where she was commissioned to create a number of illustrations advertising wares such as linen and muslin for Garson, Pirie, Scott, & Co. Ostertag also produced a set of illustrations for “Old Songs for Young America” – a popular songbook produced in 1901.
Ostertag attracted great attention due both to her designs and opinions. She was frequently cited and interviewed by the Chicago Daily Tribune and even her summer accommodations were announced in The Washington Post. Perhaps her greatest contribution to art was succinctly stated by Isabel McDougall, who recorded in 1902 that Ostertag “lifted [advertisements] out of the commercial into the artistic plane.” McDougall’s opinion was confirmed through the numerous exhibitions held for Ostertag, including a show at the Anderson Art Gallery in 1898 that included both her canvases and monotypes (which were likely reproduced in advertisements).
In addition to exhibitions at galleries, Ostertag showed her designs at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts annual exhibitions, and in St. Louis, where she was awarded a prize for her work. Today, her diverse artwork can be found as illustrations in both books and periodicals of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
“Woman’s Idea of Manly Beauty,” Chicago Daily Tribune, March 13, 1898, 25; “Effect of Woman’s Intellect on Her Beauty,” Chicago Daily Tribune, August 31, 1902, 3; “Picturesque Summer Homes of Well Known American Artists,” The Washington Post, June 7, 1908, SM5.
Isabel McDougall, “Blanche Ostertag, Artist” in The Book Buyer, A review and Record of Current Literature 25 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, August 1902 – January 1903):315.