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 Frances S. Badger  (1904 - 1997)

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Lived/Active: Illinois      Known for: landscape, Indian, mural, graphic

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Ad Code: 4
Frances S Badger
An example of work by Frances S. Badger
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A long-time resident of Chicago, Frances Badger was a painter whose work included landscapes of northern California and Navajo and Chippewa, Indians as well as many paintings of scenes of her native Chicago.

She was born in Kenilworth into a prominent early family whose ancestral home, beginning in the 1860s, was a large mansion on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Madison Avenue. The money derived from banking. From photos she had seen of the place, she did a painting of the mansion with a cow penned in from Lake Michigan by a fence.

Badger began painting as a child, and was encouraged by her mother, Sarah Frances Cowles Badger of San Francisco, and her father, Alpheus Shreve Badger of Chicago. He was in the retail lumber business. In a letter she wrote in 1987, Frances Badger spoke of her childhood and the encouragement she received for her talents: "This was that wonderful vacuum of prosperity in America between the turn of the century and World War I when a more leisurely way of life prevailed and motor cars were few, at least in our village. In fact seeing one was quite an event and the first ones I remember sat up high on the road with lavish brass fittings. It was still a horse drawn world, both for work or pleasure. . . .Both my parents always encouraged my interest in art, and when I was about six my mother would take me to the Winnetka Extension of the Saturday Juvenile School of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, held in the basement of the Winnetka Women's Club. We drove there each week in a horse drawn carriage. I attended these classes each Saturday until I was old enough to go to the regular Juvenile Classes at the Art Institute of Chicago."

Badger graduated from Upper School at Roycemore School in Evanston, Illinois, and from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1925. One of her teachers there was Helen Gardiner, author of "Art Through the Ages", which had many printings and revisions as a text book used in classrooms.

1925 was also the year Badger's parents gave her her first trip to Europe. Her oil painting, "Vollendam Board of Trade", in the Vanderpoel Collection in Chicago, resulted from this trip. Revealing her sense of humor, the work shows several pipe-smoking Hollanders with heads together trading gossip. Her companion on that trip was Matilda Vanderpoel, youngest of ten sisters of John Vanderpoel, long-time teacher at the Art Institute of Chicago. Badger had taken art lessons from Matilda at the Winnetka Branch of the Junior School of the Art Institute. Of this influence and friendship, Badger wrote: "As a child in the Juvenile School, I worked under her direction. Later as a student in the Day school I studied with her, and spent several summers during those years painting with Miss Vanderpoel in Gold Hill, Colorado. We became good friends and went to Europe together in the summer of 1925 . . . Our trip took us all over the country, from Hoorn in the north to Dordrecht in the South and the provinces near Belgium. We visited the village of Rysoord, where the Vanderpoel family lived before they went to the United States of America."

From 1925 to 1929 and 1928 to 1948, Badger taught art at the Roycemore School and also gave lessons in other private and parochial schools.

From 1933 to 1938, she was a Mural Designer with the Federal Art Project and in that position was director of many artists. Among the completed murals were ones for the Trustees Lounge of the Chicago Society of Artists and for the Federal Art Project including for the Oak Park recreational facilities and schools. These Oak Park murals, restored in the late 1990s, have themes linked to children's books and their authors such as pirate adventures in "Treasure Island". Some of her mural sketches are in the WPA Collection of the Illinois State Museum.

Badger served as President of the Chicago Society of Artists and for sixty-six years was an active member of the Arts Club of Chicago, whose annual exhibitions she frequently entered.

Frances Badger died in Chicago at age 93 on November 3, 1997.


Sidney Hamper, President of the Vanderpoel Collection, Chicago. He provided personal letters of the artist written circa 1987 but undated, and clippings from newspapers including "The Beverly Review", November 19, 1997, and "Oak Leaves", February 1997.

Louise Dunn Yochim, "Role and Impact: The Chicago Society of Artists"

Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick", An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West"

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