Kane County History: Museum Lands Painting By Elgin Artist Albert Kenney

Kane County History: Museum Lands Painting By Elgin Artist Albert Kenney


  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was written by Beth Nawara, curator of the Elgin History Museum.

Recently, the Elgin History Museum received a research request about Elgin landscape artist Albert Kenney.

In responding to the request, the museum learned that Kenney was born in Vermont, but grew up in Elgin, IL. He served in the Civil War with the 69th Illinois Volunteer Infantry.

In the 1860s and ‘70s, after the Civil War, Kenney lived in Elgin and held many odd jobs — from cooper to foundry molder to pharmacist to landscape artist and painter.

He had an art studio at 47 East Chicago Street in Elgin, but also worked at several drugstores such as Kelley and Hart. As an artist, Kenney gave painting instruction in Bloomington, Quincy and Kansas City.

Later in his life, Kenney moved back to Vermont, but three years after he died in 1889, his body was transferred to the Bluff City Cemetery in Elgin. Kenney never married, but was devoted to his sister, Kate Kenney, who continued in Elgin even after he moved back to Vermont. Kate worked at the Elgin Watch factory and may have been the reason Kenney was re-buried in Elgin next to his parents.

In completing the research request, the museum found a photo of Kenney in his art studio, but realized there is no Kenney painting in the museum’s collection.

A call for Kenney artwork went out in the museum’s January newsletter, Crackerbarrel. Right away, museum members Terry and Pat Dunning contacted the museum to offer a Kenney landscape painting!

Terry Dunning is a well-known art auctioneer in Elgin and had collected this artwork 35 years ago in the 1980s at one of his own estate sales on Division Street in Elgin.

A man had bid on the painting and purchased it, but did not want to take the painting. Terry bought it for $25 to have a piece of art on his office wall.

A friend of Terry’s professionally cleaned the painting, which revealed the Native American encampment and artist signature of A W Kenney. For years, Terry researched the artist’s signature and found a few other examples of Kenney paintings, notably in the Dundee Township Historical Society.

Now that Terry is retired and no longer using his office, he and his wife, Pat, donated the painting for visitors to know and appreciate the work of Albert Kenney.

You can see the ca. 1885 Kenney landscape painting now on exhibit in Dairies to Prairies when you visit the Elgin History Museum.

Do you know anyone who has a Kenney painting? The museum is starting a database of known Kenney paintings to document Kenney’s artwork over time.

About The Elgin History Museum

The Elgin History Museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday at 360 Park St. in Elgin.

Located in the beautiful 1856 Greek Revival Old Main building, the museum has two floors of exhibits showing off Elgin manufactured products, while discussing Elgin’s development over the past 183 years.

Come see the Elgin Watch exhibit featuring hundreds of Elgin Watch products. The Elgin American compact exhibit is up for just a few more weeks, so do not miss it. The exhibit features the compact designs of seven industrial designers.

Admission is $3; members FREE!

Read The Kane County History Series!