Queer Places:
1734 W Deming Pl, Chicago, IL 60614
1036 N Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60610
Illinois Institute of Technology, 3300 S Federal St, Chicago, IL 60616

Marie Elsa Blanke (1879 - September 2, 1961) was a famed Chicago Arts and Crafts artist and lover of Jane Heap. Blanke's sister was Esther Blanke, a prominent Chicago artist specializing in watercolors and metalwork.

In Remembering Bix by Ralph Bolton, the author makes mention of Esther and Marie as the 'spinster sisters who taught music and German at Lewis Institute a Chicago day college that no longer exists. The people one met at the Blanke's…the artist faggots, the grimmest dykes, the dirtiest poets, shabbiest painters, shyest stammering composers, drunkenest actors and most skeletal dancers…' At the age of 17, Jane Heap enrolled in the Art Institute of Chicago. She later became a student at the Lewis Institute in Chicago, where Marie Blanke became her mentor and close friend. Marie Blanke and Heap organized and operated "Blanke and Heap's Nickel Theatre" at the Lewis Institute. Marie Blanke was the "James" to whom Jane Heap refers in her letters to Reynolds in 1908-1909. Jane Heap met Florence Reynolds through Marie Blanke's "Chicago group," a circle of friends which included Esther Blanke, Florence Reynolds, Elsa Koop, and Olive Garnet. The "Chicago group" was comprised of young women from affluent families who shared an interest in the arts.'

Marie Elsa Blanke was the daughter of Judge George F. Blanke of the Superior Court of Illinois. He moved to Chicago from his native Hanover, Germany, before the civil war and, as a young man, “read law” – equivalent. Blanke’s mother was of German extraction, though born in America. She attended Lake View High School, where was awarded, in competition, a Chicago Woman’s Club scholarship at the Art Institute of Chicago. At the Art Institute she came under the spell of Fred Richardson, who must have been a sort of superman as an instructor. In the 1900 Census she is living at Deming Place with her sister and widowed mother.

Blanke partecipated at the Armory Show in New York in 1913. By the time of the Armory show, Blanke was already established in the art department at Lewis Institute. She had taken a year off to study at Munich, drawn there rather than to Paris by her German blood. She entered a private school, the academy not admitting women. She had a good time and didn’t learn much, she said, from her formal instruction, but she got a “kick” out of “secession,” then new, and out of the marvelously fantastic paintings of Klimpt, then at the height of his fame. “Secession,” a partial parallel and contemporary of French “modernism” also prepared her for the Armory show when it came.

She made two or three other trips to Germany, both before and after the war – notably to the art colony at Worpswede, near Bremen. Here, as in Florida, in Wisconsin and in Grant’s old home town, Galena, Ill., she indulged her passion for landscape with figures. Mainbrocher, ace fashion designer in Paris, was a student in her classes. He was called Main Brocher then, a resident of Chicago of Paris descent. He was at the institute only a little while, and “I didn’t have anything to do with his present reputation,” Blanke said. Another of her students, a girl, became a fashion designer in New York. A third, a man, was an art jeweler. A fourth was Lucy Barton, who did the costumes for the Old Globe theatre productions at A Century of Progress.

Blanke was the secretary, since its organization in 1923, of the Association of Chicago Painters and Sculptors. In the 1930 Census she is living with her sister and mother at North Dearborn Street.

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