Untitled Document

Artist Biography

"In the days of changing fashions and isms in art in which verities all too often seem to have been forgotten in fads and fancies of the moment, it is a relief to find an artist as self-reliant and devoted to the sane portrayal of beauty as Mrs. Botke."  
– Alma May Cook, Art Critic for the “Los Angeles Herald Tribune” 1940

Recognized as one of the leading decorative artist of the 20th Century, Jesse Arms Botke was very successful during a time when the fields of art and design were almost exclusively dominated by men and was celebrated by the critical press and the design community as one of the greatest painters of her time.

Born in 1883 in Chicago, Illinois after graduating from high school at her mother’s urging, she decided against college and decided to pursue a career as a painter, and in 1902 she enrolled in the prestigious Chicago Art Institute. After completing her studies at the Institute, in 1911 the artist moved to New York City where she immersed herself in the artistic climate of the city and gained employment at Herter Looms, a rival of Tiffany Studios and one of the City’s leading interior design house whose clients included the Armour, Guggenheim, McCormack, and Vanderbilt families.

At Herter Brothers, Botke engaged in a wide variety of decoration but focused primarily on designing intricate woven tapestries and painting exquisite oil panels. When Mr. Herter received a commission to decorate, the famous actress of the time, Billie Burke’s house at Hastings on the Hudson, he chose Botke to paint a peacock frieze for the dining room in shades of blue and green with white peacocks as notes of accent.

In 1912 Jesse was asked to help design a series of twenty-one tapestries woven by sixty Aubusson-trained weavers brought from France depicting events in New York City. Then in 1913, The Saint Francis Hotel in San Francisco commissioned Albert Herter to create, “Gifts of the Old World”, a series of decorations for seven wall spaces in the hotel’s great dining hall designed to show the cultural contributions of other areas of the world to California. For this important commission, Herter chose Botke, who incorporated flamingos, peacocks and cockatoos into the wall spaces.

Returning to Chicago in 1915, she married Dutch-born Cornelius Botke, and they worked on murals together in Chicago for the Kellogg Company and the University of Chicago. In 1918 the couple moved to Carmel, California where they built an artist-studio and then in 1927 after an extended trip to Europe, they settled on a ten-acre ranch in Wheeler Canyon near Santa Paula, California where the couple kept peacocks and other birds.

In the 1930's Botke came into her own as an artist and gained much success for her exotic, highly decorative bird studies. The artist exhibited at many well established galleries and worked closely with top interior designers and decorators and received many commissions for her work which most often included a large variety of birds and the use of gold leaf in her compositions which became part of her signature style.

Throughout her successful career as an artist, she continued to exhibit her beautifully crafted paintings and panels earning numerous important awards for her works of art. Botke was a member of the California Art Club, the California Water Color Society, and the Foundation of Western Art. Her paintings can be found in numerous important private and public collections such as the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Il; Union League Club, New York, NY; The Municipal Gallery, Chicago, IL; The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia, PA; The San Diego Museum, San Diego, CA; The Carnegie Art Museum, Pittsburg, PA, Oxnard, CA; The Ventura County Museum of History and Art, Ventura, CA, The Irvine Museum of Art and many more fine collections among others.