Kane County History: Geneva Presents The Art of The Fox River

Kane County History: Geneva Presents The Art of The Fox River

  • 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.

The diversity and beauty of the Fox River’s watercourse has been the subject of artistic studies in various formats for more than 100 years. As a whole, they document the changes that have taken place along the river’s edge.

Two recent “finds” by the Geneva History Museum showcase the loveliness of the river, past and present.

‘Art Work of Kane County, Illinois’

Art Work of Kane County, Illinois, “Scenes at Riverbank Villa”

The Geneva History Museum recently received a donation of Art Work of Kane County, Illinois: Published in Nine Parts, by Gravure Illustration Company, Chicago in 1916. These nine volumes capture the Fox River Valley, from Dundee to Montgomery, in black and white photographs at the turn of the 20th century.

Art Work of Kane County, Illinois, “Scenes on the Fox River”

Some of the scenes are familiar to us today and are specifically identified by their captions, like those of the lighthouse and windmill on the Fabyan Villa property captioned “Scenes at Riverbank Villa.” Others show unfamiliar views of locations that many pass by on a daily basis.

One captioned “Park and Fox River at Geneva,” is of the no-longer-existing staircase leading from the State Street bridge to a barely recognizable Island Park. And then there is the photograph “Scenes on the Fox River” which could be a number of places along the river.

All the images capture the beauty of bygone days.

The last page of each book includes an account of the region and pioneer life. It describes “a land where all speaks of nature’s beautiful gifts to man.” As people arrived in the Fox River Valley “they saw a territory of unequalled beauty and inspiration.”

Art Work of Kane County, Illinois, “Park and Fox River at Geneva”

Enter Joel Sheesley

Joel Sheesley, “Fox River, Island Park, Geneva, Sept. 2 — 15” x 30”

Now, more than 100 years later, Joel Sheesley is documenting the Fox River within the same boundaries.

Over a two-year period, artist Joel Sheesley created oil paintings en plein air and studio depicting the Fox River watershed from West Dundee to Ottawa, where the Fox River joins the Illinois River.

Sheesley positions landscape art as a means to deepen our experience and appreciation of nature. His paintings were done in collaboration with The Conservation Foundation‘s Fox River Initiative, an environmental education and outreach program about the Fox River and Fox Valley.

Through “Art of the Fox”, the foundation hopes to broaden interest in the health of the Fox River by appealing to the river’s aesthetic value.

Joel Sheesley, emeritus professor of art at Wheaton College, is a painter whose current work focuses on the landscape. He has been a recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Artists Fellowship, has exhibited work in Chicago galleries and had a solo exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center.

His work has also been exhibited widely in university galleries.

A New Exhibit

Joel Sheesley, “Fox In Flood, July 26 — 12” x 24”

Geneva History Museum Presents “A Fox River Testimony: Select Works by Joel Sheesley,” Feb. 2 to May 24, 2019.

The Geneva History Museum is pleased to partner with Sheesley and The Conservation Foundation to feature Joel’s paintings in the exhibition, A Fox River Testimony: Select Works by Joel Sheesley from Feb. 2 through May 24, 2019.

The museum, located at 113 South Third St., is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and gallery admission is $3 per person or free for museum members. Original paintings, giclée prints of selected works and an exhibit catalogue of Joel’s work and writings are available for purchase through The Conservation Foundation.

This exhibition is sponsored in part by Geneva Cultural Arts Commission and Geneva Foundation for the Arts.

  • FEATURE PHOTO CAPTION: Joel Sheesley painting en plein air, Sept. 26, 2018.

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