Jessie Arms Botke Biography

Jessie Arms Botke




Jessie Arms Botke, née Jessie Hazel Arms, was born in Chicago on May 27, 1883. She grew up in Chicago and attended Lincoln Public School and Lakeview High School. Despite earning a scholarship to Chicago University, Arms elected to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she eventually came under the influence of the portrait painter, John C. Johansen. She later attended Charles H. Woodbury’s summer school in Ogunquit, Maine.

Arms began her career in 1905 in Chicago when she was hired to design a frieze for Spierling and Linden Decorators. In 1909 she moved to New York and joined other artists at Herter Looms, a tapestry and manufacturing firm newly founded by the artist Albert Herter. Herter gave the artists the task of creating a peacock frieze for the dining room of the Billie Burke house at Hastings-on-Hudson. For this assignment, Arms studied peacocks at the Bronx zoo igniting her passion for birds and flora. While at Herter, she became a specialist in tapestry cartoons.

Herter affected Arms’ life again when, in 1914, he received a commission to remodel his mother’s estate, El Mirasol, in Santa Barbara, California. Confident in his young employee, he sent Jessie Arms to do the job and she was there for almost a year.

She left California for New York in the spring of 1915, stopping in Chicago to visit her parents. There she met, Cornelis Botke, a Dutch artist who was born in Haarlam, The Netherlands. They married on April 15, 1915, and the couple settled for a time in Chicago before moving west. They resided in briefly in Manitour, Colorado, San Francisco, Carmel, and Los Angeles. In 1929, they purchased ten acres of the Wheeler Canyon ranch in Santa Paula, California. They built a house and converted the barn into a studio and lived life as ranchers/artists.  

Jessie Arms Botke is known for her exotic, highly decorated bird studies, but she also focused on floral and western imagery. She worked in color woodcut, gouache, mural painting, watercolors, and oil, and frequently used gold and silver leaf in backgrounds. She designed and painted murals for schools, restaurants, hotels, and the I. Magnin department store in Los Angeles.

She was a member of the Chicago Society of Artists, Women Painters and Sculptors, the California Art Club, the California Water Color Society, the American Watercolor Society, and the Foundation of Western Art. She won numerous awards for her work, including high distinction from the Art Institute of Chicago.

Jessie Arms Botke died in Santa Paula, California on October 1, 1971.