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Zula Kenyon

 (1873 - 1947)
Zula Kenyon was active/lived in California, Illinois, Wisconsin.  Zula Kenyon is known for calendar illustration, landscape paintings.

Zula Kenyon

Biography from the Archives of askART

Zula Kenyon was an illustrator and studied under Frederick Freer at the Art Institute in Chicago.  Although she completed some early work for various companies, she began doing artwork for the Gerlach Barklow Calendar Company of Joliet Illinois shortly after it was founded in 1907.

However, in those days calendar company customers were reluctant to purchase images created by a women, and the company asked her to only sign her early work "Kenyon".  But she soon signed an exclusive contract with Gerlach Barklow Calendar company due to her work being so successful for its calendar images and sales. 

Zula mainly used pastels and often would grind her own colors in order to obtain the quality she desired for her work. She worked in a studio at the calendar company in Joliet, Illinois for around 12 years before moving out west due to health problems. She continued producing artwork for calendar prints up into the late 1930's.  Zula created Gerlach Barklow's most popular calendar series the Bluebird Series from 1926 to 1932 and again in 1939.  Miss Kenyon completed more than 200 calendar subjects for the Gerlach Barklow Calendar Company.

When she first moved to San Diego in the 1920's, Miss Kenyon lived in a home overlooking one of the city parks. She later moved near the mountains near El Cajon, Ca. where she lived with her housekeeper. Her home was a gathering place for local artists while in San Diego.  Pneumonia was her immediate cause of death at age 74 even though her health had been poor for several years.

Submitted by Tim Smith who co-authored a collector guide book on Zula Kenyon and her artwork.

Biography from the Archives of askART
Zula Kenyon (1873 - 1947) was born in Deansville, Wisconsin to John and Sarah (Clark) Kenyon. "Ms. Kenyon attended the Art Institute of Chicago in the spring, 1899 term. She then took a few years off and returned for the spring, 1901 session and again for the fall, 1901 session." (from AIC response to a collector's inquiry)

From approximately 1900 to 1918 Zula lived in Chicago and worked for the Gerlach-Barklow Company, and became one of their premier artists. "While handling all mediums with facility, her favorite is the dainty pastel. Not being satisfied with the materials to be found in the market, she invented materials of her own, since which she grinds her own colors and makes her own board. A peculiarity of her colors and board is that they give her pastel work the strength and brilliancy of oil." (from "Alone" art supplement to the GRIT) Most of Kenyon's subjects were painted before the 1920s and her various themes were: portraits of women, children, a bluebird series, Indian maidens, animals, landscapes and historical subjects.

In the early days of printing, after Zula painted on canvas, the subject was made into a black and white print, then hand-colored by employees of the calendar company. Later the prints were in color.

"Zula Kenyon was one of the most popular artists of her time and was well known for her richness of color, perfection in drawing, and beauty of composition. Her work is increasingly in demand by collectors of this genre." (from Vintage Illustration)

Source: (Accessed 3/5/2013)

Biography from the Archives of askART
Born in Deansville, Wisconsin on June 5, 1873. Opting for an art career, Kenyon moved to Chicago in 1896 and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. After a visit to Denver in 1905, she returned to Chicago and painted calendar art for many years. She visited San Diego before settling there about 1922. Leading a reclusive life, she was a modest artist who seldom exhibited. Never married, Kenyon died in La Mesa, California on June 23, 1947.

In: Santa Fe Railway (Pikes Peak).

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
American Art Annual 1907; Women Artists of the American West; San Diego Union, 6-24-1947 (obituary).

Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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About  Zula Kenyon

Born:  1873 - Deansville, Wisconsin
Died:   1947 - La Mesa, California
Known for:  calendar illustration, landscape paintings