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 Chris Olson  (1905 - 2000)

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Lived/Active: Wisconsin      Known for: rural scene

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
In the Oshkosh Public Museum's Art collection are several well-loved paintings by Chris Olson. The most familiar are a series of local history scenes that have been charming visitors for over five and a half decades.

Chris Olson was born April 6, 1905 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, but when he was six years old his family moved to Fremont and later to Wayauwega where he lived through high school. At the age of seven Chris was already showing quite a talent for drawing. He found inspiration for his drawings in the family dog, Jip, and from his mother cooking for a lumber camp. Chris was encouraged to paint when an uncle supplied him with oils and brushes.

The first art training Chris received was a scholarship from the Weyauwega Kiwanis Club that sent him to Cedarburg to study under George Oberteuffer of the Chicago Art Institute. But high hopes did not sell paintings nor pay for further art study, so Chris spent many years doing a variety of hard jobs - as a railroad section laborer, clerking in stores, and working in a feed mill. In 1930 he married Dagney Irene Winjun.

Chris and his father tried many ventures during the early'30's near Eureka, Wisconsin, first conventional farming and then a small dairy business, but neither netted enough income for those tough times. In 1935 it was suggested that Chris take a few of his paintings to show Nile Behncke, the director of the Oshkosh Public Museum and regional supervisor for the Federal Art Project. Chris was instantly hired and spent the next several years creating artwork and exhibit props under the direction of Nile and Ethel Behncke.

In 1941 Chris and his family moved to a farm near Berlin where he grew strawberries that he sold to local grocery stores. He was so successful that he even developed a new variety of everbearing strawberry that he patented in 1975.

Throughout his life, Chris would continue painting, trying a variety of styles and subjects. His greatest inspiration came from the rural scenes around him, sometimes his own farm, or even the food served for supper. Chris Olson died on August 13, 2000 but he left behind a legacy for us to treasure.

Submitted July 2004 by Edward Bentley, art collector and reseacher from Lansing, Michigan.

With Permision from Author Debra G. Daubert - Curator - Oshkosh Public Museum
Published Autumn 2002 in "Oshkosh Public Museum" magazine.

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