By Nan Greenough
One of the most beautiful pieces in the Winnetka Historical Society’s art collection is an exquisite large oil portrait of a young woman in a Chinese robe. This summer the painting was the object of a quest when Charles Rudolph, the artist’s grandson, came from New Mexico to Winnetka to visit the painting, accompanied by his daughter. Rudolph was delighted to see that the painting is prominently placed in the Evanich Room at 411 Linden and that it has weathered the years in beautiful condition, most particularly after a restoration by Kamp Galleries.
Rudolph believes that the young lady in the painting could have been the artist’s younger sister, Mary, whom Rudolph’s daughter, Bryna Schreier, closely resembles.
The artist, Pauline Dohn Rudolph (1865-1934), was born in Chicago into a family of artists. Her father Adolph immigrated to Chicago from Germany in 1853. He was the first conductor of the Apollo Musical Club in Chicago and was 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 graduated from high school at age 13 and entered the Chicago Academy of Design (the Art Institute of Chicago). After graduation she went on to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where she studied with Realist painter Thomas Eakins. 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 referred 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.” Pauline continued to paint and exhibit, receiving awards for several of her works. The artist and her husband moved to Winnetka by 1907, purchasing a home at 745 Sheridan Road, which was destroyed by fire in the 1940s. Pauline supervised the Winnetka extension of the Saturday Junior School of the Art Institute of Chicago and served on the board of the Winnetka Public Library. Franklin, a Chicago business leader and prominent Winnetka citizen, died in 1922. Pauline continued to live at 745 Sheridan until 1933, when she moved to California for the milder climate.
The painting of a young woman in a Chinese robe was exhibited widely and, when it was home in Winnetka, hung in the living room of the Rudolphs’ home. The Winnetka Historical Society is fortunate to own and exhibit this special portrait.
For more information on Pauline Dohn Rudolph, see Pauline Dohn Rudolph: Winnetkan and National Artist and this essay from the Illinois Historical Art Project.