Otto Jevne and Peter M. Almini
Life Span & Location: 101 Washington near Clark (1862-1865);
152-154 Clark, between Madison and Monroe (1865-1871)
History of Chicago; Its Commercial and Manufacturing Interests and Industry, By I.D. Guyer, 1862
Interior Decoration has been practiced in different countries from the most remote period, and it has assumed national and marked characteristics, as among the Egyptians, Assyrians, Hindoos, Chinese, Greeks, Romans, and Saracens. From the greater freedom of intercourse in later periods, the peculiarities of the art have been less decidedly pronounced, yet there has always been in each style sufficient to render it national and unique ; as the Renaissance, and the Arabesque. The latter, whose suitability to modern times has caused it to be so widely diffused, was commenced and invented by Ludius, a painter of the time of Augustus Caesar. The exquisite Frescoes of the Bath of Titus, buried for centuries in the devastations of the Roman wars, were resuscitated in the sixteenth century ; and the sight of them revived the style of the Arabesque, which was brought out and perfected by the prince of painters, Eaffael d’Urbino.
Greece and Italy have been foremost in all the arts of design, and the ornaments of their dwellings and public buildings have remained as examples and authorities of taste, down to oar own age. The Greeks carried the arts into Italy, and the paintings at Pompeii and Herculaneum are the works of Greek artists. The Italian houses are still decorated, from the abode of the artisan to the palace of the noble. Germany, in the present day, is following Italy in Interior Decoration, and has produced some of the finest works of modern times, under the patronage and direction of Louis I., ex-King of Bavaria. In England, where wealth might be expected to minister to taste, the upholsterer, not the artist, is consulted by the nobility ; there is therefore abundance of paper and gilding, but little art, or genuine taste, in the disposition of ornament in English mansions. New York and some other large cities in the United bid fair to surpass London. Among the cheerful evidences of increasing refinement and taste among our people, is the constantly increasing attention being given to the art-decorations of the better class of our dwellings, churches, educational and other public edifices. Blank, bare, unmeaning walls, or walls covered with crudely designed paper hangings, are beginning to be looked upon as an eye-sore and a deformity, by the more intelligent portion of the community ; multitudes of whom, since the rapid transit across the ocean, by means of weekly lines of steamers, is secured beyond peradventure, are taking up, temporarily, their sojourn in the elegant capitals of Europe, catching glimpses of the art-glories that have cost ages of development to produce. These glimpses are rapidly transmitted into the elements of a higher taste, and a desire to see reproduced in our own country and our own homes, similar creations. The result of this shows itself in the great attention very generally paid, especially in our own cities, to the styles and designs that are to adorn the walls of the Heaven of ffome, where every form must daily meet the eye, turn as it may, and where beauty and harmony of spirit too often become fatally aifected by discordant surroundings. Hitherto we have been obliged, in this country, to employ the foreign artists to do all this kind of work. It has grown to be a mania with many men of wealth in the large cities of America, to secure foreign architects and artists, who too often are obstinate second-rate copyists of inferior ideas and designs, to erect our dwellings and our grandest public edifices. We have been led to this expression of a well-considered conviction, from an extended examination of the various specimens of Fresco Paintings which have been executed in this city, among which those of Messrs. Jevne & Almini take a prominent position.
We take pleasure in referring to several buildings, where interior decorations are in Fresco, the work of these two Artists; among which we may mention Trinity Church; First Presbyterian Church; Wabash Avenue Methodist Church; the palatial residences of T. King, Esq., on Michigan Avenue; B. F. Haddock, Esq.; the Sherman House, and many others.
Messrs. Otto Jevne and Peter Almini have been residents of Chicago for the last nine years, during which time they have inculcated and infused a higher love of Fresco Painting.
We wish we could announce the more rapid progress of Frescoe Painting, the most beautiful of all the arts for interior decorations. But as wealth is flowing in upon us as to no other nation on the globe, it is gratifying to know that our enterprise and successful efforts in arts are acknowledged on all hands. In an incredibly short space of time, we have subdued almost a continent of wilderness, filled the cultivated country with villages and cities, and all the forms of human industry, and obtained reputation by some of the most important practical inventions which any people have produced. It was naturally to be expected, that the Fine Arts would have a slender growth; coming, if at all, after nearly everything else was perfected. Yet in these, as in whatever else is of physical or intellectual life of man, the American mind has shown its capacity. We believe the time has now come in this country, when labor is to be expended on ideal conceptions; that the forms which arise to the gifted in the “stillness of musings,” shall find through intense and long effort, “a local habitation and a name.” There is at least genius and desire enough it only remains for the people of this country to give sufficient encouragement; and we think that this, also, is in a measure being afforded in a word, that the era of Art is beginning on the Western Continent. Yet we are surprised, and it is greatly to be regretted, that cultivated Americans, who enjoy the luxury of art abroad, should be content with white-washed walls at home.
We regret to say, that there are but few mansions of the opulent in Chicago whose walls are embellished with Frescoe; that highest style of painting, in which Raphael achieved much of his reputation ; and Michael Angelo himself has been as extensively known, perhaps, as the author of “The Last Judgment,” and “The Creation,” both of which were in the Sistine Chapel.
There are palatial residences in this city, whose Interior Decorations, we are proud to say, are from the pencil of our own Artists, Messrs. Jevne & Almini; yet we suppose there are very few of the “Lords of these Mansions,” who would not regard the application of a stranger to be allowed to see their embellishments, as a piece of impudence while everybody knows that all over Europe, it is expected that the fortunate possessor of an exquisite work of art, or taste, in Fresco, will at all proper hours allow visitors to see it. There is not a royal palace on the Continent whose doors are not thrown open, whenever convenience will allow, for strangers to inspect the works of art which adorn them. It will be so here as soon as our standard of taste has been far enough elevated for strangers of culture to make such applications. As it is now, a man of taste can have no motive for going through a magnificent house. He sees nothing but gaudy and expensive furniture rooms lumbered up with mahogany or rosewood, with velvet-cushioned chairs and sofas, blazing carpets, curtains and drapery, with, perhaps, a few contemptible daubs by men who paint such things, either because they are artists, or because can make more money by humbugging rich men than by painting signs or barns, or wood-houses. There are a few exceptions, and we might mention them; and it would be with a sentiment of respect we cannot feel except towards those gentlemen who devote a portion, at least, of their income to the purchase of statues and pictures, thereby showing that they prize intellectual and moral refinement higher than expensive furniture, cashmere shawls, fast horses, and imported wines, warranted pure Chicago vintage.
Jevne & Almini
101 Washington Street
Chicago Tribune, December 12, 1865
On Saturday evening a very pleasant and delightful affair took place in the new establishment of Messrs. Jevne & Almini at No. 152 and No. 154 Clark street. It was the occasion of the Artists’ Reception at the new and beautiful Art Gallery just opened by these gentlemen in connection with their new premises. The building itself, a noble and permanent business structure of the best class, has already been referred to by us as among the notable city improvements of the season. Last evening the same establishment was thrown open in even a more formal manner in a public reception, brilliant after its kind of brilliant gatherings, and attended by a large representation of our art lovers and art patrons. In the former instance referred to, the attendance at a handsome collation was made up of most of our resident artists, with representatives of the press and other professions. The occasion was full of geniality and good feeling, and replete with pleasant features for guests and entertainers. The gathering of last evening was of a different kind—more formal, more numerous, and yet in both respects highly creditable to the enterprising firm as attesting the favor in which they have won the right to be held by our citizens.
A few notes more in detail and more closely descriptive of the place Messrs. Jevne & Almini have for some years past occupied here is due them, and finds no more appropriate time than the present for its narration. In their whole range of business they are identified with the brethren of the brush in every grade, from the humblest journeyman painter to the king of artists. They have worked their way up from the lowest to the highest grade, rejecting no step of progress when gained, but holding it as the permanent support to others higher and beyond. It would be unjust to them and their business not to have it understood that they have broadened and increased all their facilities alike, so that today they are able to fill and satisfy every demand, from the painting of a front fence to the most ornate and costly ceiling decoration, and for the materials of every painting process, from the simplest to the noblest and most enduring.
Thus it will be seen that their new art gallery and the fostering influence of their establishment on art among us in the blossom on a successful business still maintained with all its channels, even more full than before. Some years ago, with the growth of luxury in Chicago homes, they began their branch of fresco and decorative painting. Under their hands and by their artists, have been achieved many of the most notable samples of this class of work in this city and the Northwest. Artists of no small merit in general art have been brought to this country by them at great expense, and are still in their employ, while their list is each season largely growing, of such instances of their taste and skill as the decorations of the new opera house, the Board of Trade, the finest of our public halls and churches, and the wall and ceiling decorations of our finest residences by the score. And yet this decorative branch of their business has never been allowed to engross or distract their general plan and divert their facilities for house and sign painting in all its branches, on which they have continually a small army of workmen employed, sending them in this and other classes of their contracts to all parts of the Northwest.
Within this reference due a thoroughly enterprising and deservedly successful firm, the foundation has been laid as they have actually laid it for the more exclusively ornamental and art notes and the new branches of their business. They occupy the whole of their new building, designed expressly for their occupancy, leasing out only such portions in the intermediate stories as they can spare. The front principal store is elegantly fitted up and furnished with a stock of artist and painters’ material, such as has rarely if ever been seen west of New York. Joined with this is a department of choice engravings and chromo lithographs. The rear of the main floor is a great wareroom and paint shop for the less ornamental stock and processes.
The new Art Gallery, the chief centre of attraction last evening, is a very elegant and finely lighted hall in the rear of the second floor, with a large sky-light, and exceedingly chaste and appropriate interior decorations. The walls are already hung with a very excellent array of pictures, some of them for the first time brought out, reflecting great credit on our artists. It is a solid and substantial advantage to the artist fraternity to have thus secured to them a place where all the advantages of light and proper surroundings are offered to their pictures. Messrs. Jevne & Almini’s Art Gallery is emphatically of this class, and will become instantly one of the most popular artist homes in the Northwest.
One other department of the business of the firm remains to be referred to. It is a new one, and one sure to be welcomed among its class of enterprises. The whole of the upper floor is devoted to a large and completely furnished Lithograph Printing establishment, with the best workmen and appliances of that beautiful art. An undertaking the firm have now in hand in this branch will interest our city readers, and deserves complete success among them. It is the issue in monthly parts of a illustrated series of views of Chicago with accompanying descriptive letter press. From the drawings and advance prints we have seen, we predict immense popularity for the work.
We take pleasure in giving to the new establishment of Jevne & Almini the credit and place it deserves. They are among those of our foreign born citizens who have shown themselves thoroughly Americanized in every respect of pride in our city and deligence and taste in a branch of business largely identified with its aesthetic growth and culture. They deserve the success they have made theirs, and the good wishes that have been showered upon them by their many guests on the two fresh occasions of their receptions of last evening, and Saturday night.
Chicago Tribune, January 12, 1866
CHICAGO ILLUSTRATED.—The first number of this work containing views of our most public buildings and thoroughfares will be issued in a few days, by the enterprising publishers Jevne & Almini, and will contain views of the Chamber of Commerce, Second Presbyterian Church, Tremont House and Lake Park, including the Great Central Depot, with letter-press descriptions by J. W. Sheahan, Esq., accompanying each view. Canvassers are already in the field, and are meeting with great success in obtaining subscriptions. The work is very well gotten up, and will be perused with pleasure by all who are interested in the rise and progress of our Western metropolis. A subscription book may be found at the Art Emporium, Nos. 152 and 154 Clark street, where also the work may be inspected.
Chicago Evening Post, February 9, 1866
CHICAGO ILLUSTRATED.—Messrs. Jevne & Almini, of 152 and 154 South Clark street, have commenced the publication of a very valuable work entitled “Chicago Illustrated.” The first number is before us and contains four really fine engravings of the Chamber of Commerce, the Tremont House, the Great Central Depot Grounds, and the Second Presbyterian Church. The engravings are all excellently executed, and surpass anything of the kind ever done in this city. A letter press description accompanying each engraving, written by James W. Sheahan, Esq. This work will be issued in monthly parts, and will be completed in about twenty-five numbers. Each number will contain four engravings. Everyone who feels a pride in our great city, and who takes an interest in its prosperity, should subscribe for this work, which is useful and valuable, and will be an ornament to any library.
Chicago Evening Post, March 7, 1866
CHICAGO ILLUSTRATED.—Messrs. Jevne & Almini have just issued Nos. 8 and 9 of Chicago Illustrated. The eighth number contains lithographic views of The Crib , Plymouth Congregational Church, Soldier’s Home, and the corner of South Water and Clark Streets. In the ninth number are views of the Union Stock Yards, the Hough House, the First Congregational Church and the Illinois Central Roundhouse. These drawings are most admirably executed. The street scenes especially are most life-like. The figures and the groupings are really artistic, and afford us pictures of life in the streets as well as of stores and churches. The series of illustrations will give a conception of the present appeaqrance of the city perfectly truthful, and ten times more vivid than any written description could be.
Chicago Tribune, October 13, 1867
Mrs. Green has leased Jevne & Almini’s Gallery, and will open a large collection there shortly, among them Bierstast’s last picture, “The Domes of Yo Semite,” of which I wrote you while in the Hub. And, speaking of J. and A., reminds me that Nos. 12 and 13 of their Chicago Illustrated are just out, full of exquisite lithographs of city views.. The work, when finished, will be a credit to Chicago.
Chicago Tribune, November 18, 1866
CHICAGO ILLUSTRATED.—Numbers Seven and Eight of Jevne’s Almini’s publication of Views of Chicago have just been issued. There is a regular improvement in the execution of the pictures, and the points of interest are selected with much discrimination. In the illustrations in these numbers we notice the Chicago University, the North Presbyterian Church, Lake street from State east, the Briggs House, the juncture of Chicago River, Douglas Monument, the Sherman House and the Second Baptist Church. The lithography of this work is very fine, and is a credit to the company. The work now embraces thirty-two pictures of as many public buildings, business points, and familiar street scenes. The next number will contain a view of the Chicago Stock Yards. The letter press of this publication is written by J. W. Sheahan. Single copies or full sets of the work can be had at Jevne & Almini’s, 152 and 154 South Clark street.
Jevne & Almini
150-152-154 Clark Street
Preface, Chicago Illustrated, January, 1866
We propose to publish, in Monthly Parts, an Illustrated History of Chicago,—that is, a history of the more important and striking evidences of the City’s improvement and enterprise.
This work will consist of twenty-five part, each number will contain at least four tinted Lithographic Views of the Public Buildings, Churches, important thoroughfares, of the River and Harbor, of the Lake Park and Grand Central Depot, and other objects and points of interest. These Views, one hundred or more in number, will afford a comprehensive picture of this marvelous city. With the last number will be given a “General View of the City.” Each picture will be accompanied with a brief but comprehensive Letter Press description of the scene or the building illustrated. The Lithographs will be executed from Original Drawings, by the Chicago Lithographing Company, who have been employed by us expressly for this Work, and whose reputation as artists stands equal to that of any of the profession in this country. They will, in point of artistic execution, equal any publication of the kind ever made in the United States.
Descriptions of the Literary Work will be prepared by James W. Sheahan, Esq., of this city. The first number will be executed in January, 1866:
A limited number only will be published, and subscriptions, and orders for the Work can be addressed to us at our establishment, where further information can be obtained.
152 & 154 South Clark Street
Cover wrap of Part Nine, and a complete set of all 13 published issues of Chicago Illustrated.
Chicago Tribune, February 29, 1872
Peter Almini, late of Jevne & Almini, “resurg-aming” at No. 344 State street, in a rather novel way. The front of the second story is entirely occupied by a semi-circular arch, which will be filled in with mammoth sheet of plate glass, giving an unique frontage to an art gallery, which will occupy the floor above the store.
About April of 1872, the partnership was not resumed, each man preferring to establish his own business.
The artistic merit of Chicago Illustrated was due largely to the choice of a capable artist and lithographer. Louis Kurz was an American who made his way to Chicago in 1852. For eight years he worked as a “scenic artist,” and then turned to lithography. In 1863 he joined with several others to form the Chicago Lithographing Company, which quickly made a name for itself. Like Jevne and Almini, the company came to an end in 1871. After the fire Kurz established the American Oleograph Company at Milwaukee. There he remained until 1878, when he moved the company to Chicago. Two years later he formed a partnership with Alexander Allison, and spent the last years of his life turning out hundreds of gorgeously garish chromolithography by which the firm of Kurz and Allison is known today.