Jesse Arms Botke

Artist Biography

Jesse Arms Botke is best known for her elegant depictions of birds, often featuring decorative plant-life. Botke grew up in Chicago and trained under the portraitist John Christen Johansen at the Art Institute of Chicago. She continued her studies at the Académie Julian in Paris. In 1906, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway sponsored Botke on a trip to Arizona and California to paint imagery promoting the American West. In 1911, the artist moved to New York and studied under the muralist and designer Albert Herter before joining his tapestry and textile firm, Herter Looms. Botke specialized in tapestry cartoons and contributed to several of Herter’s murals, including a peacock mural for the actress Billie Burke, known for her role as Glinda in The Wizard of Oz. This project may have inspired Botke’s interest in birds as she took numerous trips to the Bronx Zoo to study the peacocks. In 1915, she married the Dutch artist Cornelius Botke and the two worked on several large mural commissions together in Chicago before relocating to California. The Botkes became important figures in the local artist community in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, before moving to a ranch outside of Santa Paula, where Botke would remain the rest of her life.

Botke depicted peacocks, cockatoos, swans, cranes, pheasants, and toucans typically surrounded by decorative flora. She used a variety of mediums to create her ornate images, including gouache, watercolor, and oil, as well as gold leaf. She became a member of the California Art Club, the California Watercolor Society, and the National Association of Women Artists. Today, her work resides in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Jack & Shanaz Langson Institute & Museum of California Art, and the San Diego Museum of Art.

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