Jessie Hazel Arms Botke (1883-1971) is known for her exotic, highly decorated bird studies, especially elegant plumages of peacocks. She also painted other subjects including Indian figures, genre, and desert landscapes, and usually painted in oil but also worked in watercolor and gouache and frequently used gold and silver leaf in backgrounds.
Born to English parents in Chicago in 1883, Jessie Arms Botke spent much of her free time as a child sketching and painting. At the age of fourteen, she took art classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. When Jessie Arms Botke graduated from high school, she enrolled as a full-time student at the Institute. Her summer vacations were spent in intensive painting workshops in Michigan and Maine which led to her first exhibition at the Art Institute's American Annual in 1904. After school, Jessie Arms Botke worked in wall decoration and book illustration and refined her skills as a decorative artist.
By 1906, Jessie Arms Botke had arranged an exchange of her paintings for a trip West on the Santa Fe Railroad to Arizona and California, and the Railroad acquired works titled "Hopi Indian Life" and "California Missions". She exhibited some of these western-subject paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago. Inspired by an exhibition of friezes, decorations, and tapestries from Herter Looms of New York, Jessie Botke moved there in 1911. Several years later, she was employed at Herter Looms where she worked on tapestry design, painted panels and friezes, and began to specialize in painting birds.
While visiting Chicago in 1914, Jesse Hazel Arms met a Dutch-born artist named Cornelis Botke whom she married in 1915. For the next 12 years the Botkes worked as artists in Chicago, San Francisco and Carmel, California, and they traveled often to New York City and Europe. The Botkes finally settled in Southern California on a ten acre ranch in Wheeler Canyon, outside of Santa Paula. This would be their home until her death in 1971. It was during this time that Jessie Arms Botke fully developed her bold decorative style of painting exotic birds. When Jessie Arms Botke's eyesight began to fail in 1961, she continued painting small watercolors until surgery and contact lenses restored her vision and she was able to resume painting full-time.
A stroke in 1967 took away her painting ability and Jessie Arms Botke died four year later on October 2, 1971 in Ventura, California. Jessie Hazel Arms Botke passed away at the age of 88.
Jessie Arms Botke Exhibitions and Awards
National Academy of Design
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Art Institute of Chicago
First Prize - Los Angeles County Fair
First Prize - California State Fair, Sacramento 1934
Jessie Arms Botke Memberships
California Art Club
California Water Color Society
Foundation of Western Art