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 John Adams Spelman  (1880 - 1941)

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Lived/Active: Minnesota/Illinois      Known for: Lake Superior scenes, mountains, woods

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BIOGRAPHY for John Spelman
1880 (Owatonna, Minnesota)
1941 (Moose Lake, Minnesota)


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Often Known For
Lake Superior scenes, mountains, woods

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from the family of the artist:

John Adams Spelman
Born: 9/30/l880, Owatonna, MN
Died: 5/l9/l94l, Moose Lake, MN
Address: 73l Woodbine Ave., Oak Park,Illinois
Subject and Medium: Landscape painter, oil
Style: Realist
Family: Barbara Spelman Allen, daughter

John Spelman had a keen interest in northeastern Minnesota, especially along Lake Superior because it was still a relatively wild country with a small population count per square mile. His interest was spurred by reading about it, and eventually by making some trips there, particularly after he moved from Minneapolis to Chicago.

He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago under John H. Vanderpoel and Charles F. Browne. In addition to the Arrowhead country of Minnesota, Lake Superior and the inland lakes, he painted the southern mountains around Gatlinburg and Asheville, North Carolina.

All Illinois Society of Fine Arts; Association of Chicago Painters and Sculptors; Chicago Artists Guild; Chicago Galleries Association;Chicago Society of Artists; Duluth Art League; Illinois Academy of Fine Arts; Oak Park and River Forest Art League; and Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts.

Art Institute of Chicago, l926, Englewood Women's Club Prize, $l00;
Chicago Galleries Association: l927, two awards totaling $300; l928, prize of $250; l929 First Prize, $l000
Association of Chicago Painters and Sculptors at AIC: gold medal
Oak Park Art League, l930, gold medal;
Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Art, l933, gold medal.

Beverly Arts Center, Chicago;: John H. Vanderpoel Collection; Chicago Athletic Club; Illinois State Museum, Springfield, Il; Springfield Art Association; University of Nebraska

From obituary, Oak Leaves, Oak Park, Il, Thursday, May 22, l94l:

John A. Spelman, a noted artist and former long time resident of Oak Park, died on Monday, May l9, l94l, in Moose Lake, MN. He had made his home for the last several years in Grand Marais, MN.

He was born in Owatonna, MN, on September 30, l880. At the age of l2, he moved to Minneapolis where he attended the North Side High School. About l900 his mother, a widow, two brothers, George and Herbert, and a sister, Mabel, and he moved to Oak Park. All of them preceded him in death.

His interest in the beauties of nature while still a boy created a desire to portray on canvas for his and others pleasure the grandeur of the great out of doors.

Shortly after coming to Oak Park he took up the study of art at the Chicago Art Institute at night, being otherwise employed during the day. Later he became associated with his brothers in the newspaper circulating business and after a few years was able to devote most of his time to the further study of art under the instruction of John Vanderpoel, Charles Francis Browne and others of note in the field of art.

For more than 30 years he and his family spent their summers and some winters in their log cabin and studio on the north shore of Lake Superior, about 22 miles northeast of Grand Marais, where he painted many north woods scenes in all seasons of the year. His paintings of the Smokies and Cumberlands with their mystic haze have gained an enduring place in the hearts of those who love the southern highlands.

The years he spent on woodland trails and over stream and lake with canoe and paddle brought him in close communion with nature in all its ramifications to the end that he was enabled to transmit its beauties to canvas.

He was a member of the Austin, Oak Park and River Forest Art League, a member of the Palette and Chisel Club, the Chicago Galleries Association and the Academy of Fine Arts. He was the recipient of many honors and awards from fellow artists' groups, museums and galleries.

Representative works from his brush may be found in the galleries of Springfield Art Association, Chicago Athletic Association, University of Nebraska, State Museum, Vanderpoel Memorial Collection, Chicago, various schools, churches and clubs in the villages. He is survived by his wife, Florence Sias Spelman; three daughters, Mrs. J. Henry Eliasen, of Grand Marais, Mrs. Tunis Dekker of Oak Park, Barbara, and a son, John III, both of whom are at the Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY; Mrs. Herbert F. Spelman, R. LeRoy Sias and their families.(Barbara is now Mrs.
Collin F. Allen, Portage, Michigan.)

Services will be conducted today at Hovland, MN, just a few miles from his studio in a country that captured and held his ever increasing interest through the years.

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:

Born in Owatonna, Minnesota, John Spelman began painting in childhood. After studying briefly at the Minneapolis Museum of Art, he moved with his family to Chicago and continued his studies at that city's Art Institute.

His interest in the outdoors---he was a hunter, trapper and fisherman---drew him to landscape painting. For more than thirty years Spelman spent his summers and some winters in a cabin on the north shore of Lake Superior near Grand Marais, where he painted woodland scenes at all times of the year. He also spent time in the Great Smokey Mountains of North Carolina and eastern Tennessee with the Chicago artist Rudolphe Ingerle, with whom he shared a palette and style. Spelman's landscapes are broadly brushed and rich in color. To heighten their visual impact, he often used strong contrasts of light and dark.

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