Kane County History: Geneva Museum Invites Artists To Celebrate Cultural Heritage

Kane County History: Geneva Museum Invites Artists To Celebrate Cultural Heritage

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was submitted by Terry Emma, executive director of the Geneva History Museum.

View of the three murals on the east wall of the Kane County Courthouse, circa 1999. All photos courtesy of Geneva History Museum.

Inspired by local artist, Edward J. Holslag, and his contributions to Kane County’s artistic heritage, the Geneva History Museum is hosting two art exhibitions in 2019, including a Kane County Juried Art Exhibition from June 14 to Nov. 2.

The Geneva History Museum is now accepting submissions for its competitive juried art exhibition, which is open to all artists 18 years of age and over who presently live in or have previously lived in Kane County.

All works must be original and completed in the last two years.

More information can be found at www.GenevaHistoryMuseum.org by clicking Kane County Juried Art Exhibition on our homepage. Entry deadline is Dec. 1, 2018.

About Edward J. Holslag


Photograph of Edward Holslag’s Geneva mural in the Kane County Courthouse, circa 1999.

The Kane County Courthouse located at the southwest corner of Third and James Streets in Geneva was designed by Edbrooke and Burnham, Chicago architects.

Photograph of Edward Holslag from The Fine Arts Journal, July 1916.

Completed in 1892, it was built on the ruins of the previous courthouse that was destroyed by fire. The interior decoration of the building was delayed until 1908, when $12,500 in appropriations were approved for repairs and decorations.

Out of 25 bids submitted to the Supervisors Committee, artist Edward Holslag was selected for the project.

The interior decoration was completed in 1909 and included a set of murals painted in semicircular shapes to fit into eleven wood archways lining the fourth floor walls.  Each of the murals depicts Holslag’s views of different locations in Kane County and were labeled on the wood below as “Burlington – Plato,” “Saint Charles,” “Campton,” “Geneva,” “Aurora,” “Big Rock,” “Blackberry,” “Elgin,” “Batavia,” “Dundee,” and “Mill Creek.”

Other mural work that was done as part of the project has been hidden from sight by the installation of a dropped ceiling during one of several renovations that have taken place.

The man behind the murals, Edward J. Holslag was born in Buffalo, NY, on Feb. 4, 1870, and was the oldest of 13 children. He later moved to Michigan and began studying at the Art Institute of Detroit.

Kane County Courthouse rotunda, circa early 1910s.

While a student in Detroit, he won a scholarship to attend the National Academy of Design in New York, where he studied under John LaFarge. After his formal studies, Holslag traveled Europe before returning to the United States to began his career in black and white work for Collier’s Weekly.

He eventually branched out to mural painting, and by 1892 he was appointed superintendent of decoration in the Congressional Library in Washington, D.C. This included not only mural work, but the supervision of the entire decorative scheme of the interior of the library.

From there, his success skyrocketed.

Relocating to Chicago, Holslag continued to work as a muralist, as well as an interior decorator, forming Holslag & Co. with an office on Michigan Avenue. He would also become known for his oil paintings of landscapes and portraits, including paintings of the Fox River and the Aurora area, where his family was located.

He was listed in the Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors and Engravers by Mantle Fielding, Artists of the American West, Volume II, by Doris Ostrander Dawdy, and Who Was Who in American Art, edited by Peter Hastings Falk.

At the time of his death in DeKalb on Dec. 10, 1924, Holslag’s representative works could be found in practically every part of the United States.

Kane County Courthouse Circuit Court Room, circa early 1910s.

Read The Kane County History Series!