Pauline Dohn Rudolph: Winnetkan and National Artist

Gazette Article by: Maura Rogan
Appeared in the Gazette: Fall/Winter 2005

Pauline Dohn Rudolph

Pauline Dohn Rudolph, photograph by Helen Balfour Morrison.

The arts were in her blood. Pauline Amalie Dohn was born in Chicago in 1865 to Adolf W. and Pauline Dohn. Adolf, who immigrated to Chicago from Germany in 1853, was the first conductor of the Apollo Musical Club in Chicago and an organist for the Fourth Presbyterian Church. According to a 1901 obituary for her mother, Pauline’s childhood home at 165 Locust Street in Chicago was “the favorite resort of the leading artists and musicians of the city.” Young Pauline showed an early interest in painting; younger sister Mary demonstrated an exceptional talent for music.

Pauline graduated from high school at age 13 and entered the Chicago Academy of Design (The Art Institute of Chicago). Graduating in 1882, she went on to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where she studied with Realist painter Thomas Eakins. Biographical accounts of her life indicate that she also studied in Paris and the Netherlands, crafting her skill as an artist of portraits and allegorical subjects. By the early 1890s she was back in Chicago, exhibiting and selling her paintings. She was a member of several art clubs and even exhibited an oil painting at the Fine Arts Palace in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

In October 1901, Pauline married Franklin Rudolph. The Chicago Tribune announcement refers to Pauline as “one of the best known of the women artists of the West,” with her “pictures being hung at each annual exhibition at the Art Institute.” It indicates that she had recently resigned from teaching at the Art Institute and that the new couple would reside on LaSalle Avenue in the city. Pauline continued to paint and exhibit, receiving awards for several of her works. In 1906, she participated in a “circulating art gallery” in which paintings traveled to women’s clubs in towns around the country that were remote from the art galleries of the larger cities. It was the hope, according to a January 1906 Chicago Tribune article, that the exhibit would “result in a liberal art education to thousands who probably rarely see anything but photographs or poor reproductions of the works of the best artists.”

Pauline and Franklin had moved to Winnetka by 1907, purchasing a spacious Tudor home at 745 Sheridan Road. It appears that her painting gave way to the responsibilities of being a wife and mother. The 1910 census lists Franklin (52), Pauline (44), and children Franklin (6), Pauline (4), and Charles (3). Pauline did continue to support the arts, however. She supervised the Winnetka extension of the Saturday Junior School of The Art Institute of Chicago, held in the basement of the Winnetka Woman’s Club. In a 1978 written tribute to the Rudolphs in the collection of the Winnetka Historical Society, family friend Frances Badger wrote, “When I was a small child before World War I, my mother used to take me there in a horse-drawn carriage from our home in Kenilworth. Here I met Mrs. Rudolph and her daughter, Pauline, both of whom became my good and lifelong friends.” Pauline also became involved in civic affairs, serving on the board of the Winnetka Public Library for many years.

Franklin died at home in December 1922. The Winnetka Talk obituary referred to him as a Chicago business leader and “one of the most prominent citizens of this village.” Franklin had built up a large business as a manufacturer of metal containers; it was absorbed by the American Can Co., of which he became vice president. He left an estate of $525,000 to Pauline, who continued to reside at 745 Sheridan Road and participate in Village activities. Illness caused her to move to the mild climate of California in 1933; she died there on June 19, 1934, at the age of 69.

The Rudolph home on Sheridan Road was largely destroyed by fire in the early 1940s when it was rented. But Pauline’s paintings were stored in the basement and survived. The Winnetka Historical Society is fortunate to own one of her works, a large portrait of a young woman in a Chinese robe. The painting was exhibited widely and, when it was home in Winnetka, hung in the Rudolph’s living room. It is currently on display at the Society’s museum at 411 Linden.

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