|Gretchen Anna Reis and Lee John Pape with godson Jack Bleidt, May 17, 1936|
About a year ago, my (new friend) "Awin" commented on another post on this blog, saying Aunt Gret "was a friend of my Grandmother, Amy Zender Windler of Ridgeville, Chicago. I have a painting Gretchen did in 1908 and gave to my grandmother. It is beautiful. I have always been looking for another of her paintings."
Then, about two weeks ago, I received an e-mail (via this blog) from someone who said Aunt Gret "was a wonderful water color artist. I have a painting of hers signed Gretchen Reis-Pape 1/11/40. I think we also may have another painting. We bought them at an auction in Holly, Michigan, a few years ago. I have searched for years to get info on the artist."
Gretchen was born April 4, 1886, in Evanston, Illinois, the oldest of the seven children of Joseph A. Reis and Margaret Muno (who were both born in Illinois of German parents). She's listed as an artist in various Evanston city directories from 1909 through 1933 (although she obviously continued painting after that). She married my uncle Lee John Pape between 1925 and 1927, and they lived in Wilmette after that. They had no children. She died on April 20, 1947, and is buried at St Henry's Cemetery in Chicago.
When nephew Jack Bleidt was born on February 13, 1929, Gretchen and Lee became his godparents. Gretchen made the clever card at right (noting that J.C.B., John Carl Bleidt, was born between Abe Lincoln and St. Valentine), which Jack's mother, Lee's sister Martha Elisabeth Pape Bleidt, saved in Jack's baby book.
Great Aunt Martha also saved the little watercolor drawing below, from the Easter greeting Aunt Gret sent her godson on March 29, 1929.
I asked my family if they had any of Aunt Gret's paintings. My Aunt Betty said, "I had a painting of Aunt Gret's hanging in my bedroom on Lunt Ave. I don't know what happened to it after they sold [2093 W.] Lunt Ave. Now wish I did. As I recall it was of a girl holding a straw hat with the wind blowing her hair."
In 2005, Awin noticed a note in her father's handwriting on the back of the painting that says, Your grandmother, Amy Windler, was a close friend of Gretchen Reis, who drew this picture. Gretchen was engaged to Mr. Sontag but he left her at the altar.”
Wow! That could be a yet another story (two Sontags, Henry and Arby, were of the right age and were members, like Gretchen and her family, of St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Evanston). This does help explain why Gretchen married Lee Pape so late in life (she was around 40) for that era.
Awin also sent me a link to a painting by Gretchen that she found on eBay.com about a year ago. Here is what the seller wrote:
"Recently we were contacted by an upper end Antique & Asian Gallery in Chicago's Magnificent Mile. They asked if we would take some consignments, of course we jumped at the chance...Up for auction is a wonderful winter landscape painting, signed G. Pape 1904 [sic]. Attributed to Gretchen Anna Pape (1866 [sic]-1947) of Evanston, Illinois. She was an easel painter from the turn of the century. It depicts a winter forest landscape with the light of the full moon. It has a cabin barn with an open door and what looks like a blacksmith working at his anvil. This was restretched somewhere shortly after it was done. It measures approx. 42" x 28". We couldn't find a bio on Gretchen Pape."
Their (mis-)information appears to have come from page 2525 of the 1999 edition of Who Was Who in American Art, 1564-1975 : 400 Years of Artists in America, which has an entry for:
Gretchen Anna Pape (Mrs.), painter, b. 1866/ d. 1947, Evanston, IL. Addresses : Wilmette, IL
Additionally, it's unlikely the painting below was done in 1904, as Gretchen was not Mrs. Pape at that point - unless she signed the painting after her marriage.
© Amanda Pape - 2012 - click here to e-mail me.