Imagine browsing through a thrift shop and finding a “lost” Vernon Johnson painting with a high-class provenance – the elegant Palmer House Hotel, Chicago’s liveliest social center at the turn of the 20th century and well into it. From the Palmer House galleries to Saint Vincent’s Thrift Store in Columbus, Ohio, one of the hundreds of mid-century watercolors by Midwest regional artist Vernon Johnson had a very charming and — we trust — memorable ride. The proud new 21st century owner of this autumn scene, who lives in central Ohio, instantly “loved it and put it in my cart without hesitation.” Once she saw the Palmer House information on the back of the painting, she searched for our Artist’s Eye website.
“I looked up the Palmer House in Chicago, and was shocked at the opulence,” she wrote. “Possibly your father had a show there?” While we don’t know the full story, we can make some good guesses — as an art school student at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Vernon Johnson was featured in a show at The Art Institute of Chicago, and later he had many friends and business colleagues in the Midwest. No doubt one of those avenues resulted in this 1959 painting displayed in the Palmer House Galleries.
If you find another Vernon Johnson painting, dear readers, be sure to let us know!