Marie Jakl

1890, Omaha, Nebraska – 1983, Omaha, Nebraska

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Born in Omaha as the youngest child of Bohemian parents, Marie Jakl was a locally recognized painter beginning in the 1940s. After her death in 1983, her name and artwork faded from public attention. However, several decades later, thanks to Patricia Halderman, researcher from Lincoln, Nebraska, interest in Marie Jakl is reviving. After learning about her, Halderman concluded: “she was the most amazing woman! She was successful in everything she did and was very involved with the Omaha community. In addition to being an artist, she created a sophisticated collection of historically valuable dolls, and was recognized locally and nationally for her garden-club activities with flowers and landscape architecture.

Much of the following text is based on information shared by Halderman, who began her quest with a letter to the Lincoln Artists’ Guild, October 24, 2014: “I am trying to find information on a member of the Guild. Her name was/is Marie Jakl. I purchased her painting Down South at the library book sale this year. On the back is written: ‘Please note this is an original work of art from the permanent collection of the Lincoln Artists’ Guild. It requires special handling and cannot be replaced.’…I am on the hunt for information about the artist. A challenge. How old is this painting, and how did she choose the subject? Can you suggest any research ideas?”

Ancestry records tell much of Marie’s personal story. She never married, had three older brothers, Joseph, Vincent, and Anton, Jr., and an older sister, Barbara, and lived most of her adult years with immediate family members. Her parents were Anna (Tirsch) Jakl and Anton Jakl, Sr. Some unconfirmed references indicate the parents may have lived on a farm in central Nebraska before coming to Omaha, but known from census records is that by 1890 the couple were living with their children in South Omaha at 1819 Martha Street. The father’s occupation was “blacksmith.”

Ten years later, the entire family was still together, and all of the ‘children’ were adults in their 20s, except for Marie, who would have been age 10. No death date has been found for the parents, but they were still living in 1907 as they were listed that year as survivors in an obituary of their oldest son, Joseph, who died at age 32. (Omaha World-Herald, October 17, 1907) That same year, census records listed Marie with the occupation of “trimmer,” and by 1911, she was described as “milliner.”

Youngest son Vincent became a meteorologist for Fort Omaha and also for surrounding states, and he lived at the Fort. Living together for the remainder of their lives were the middle son, Anton Jr. and his sisters, Barbara, the second born of the family, and Marie. By 1916, when Marie was age 26, they, along with the parents, occupied adjacent properties in Omaha at 2223 and 2227 South 20th Street. Anton, Jr., was listed as the owner of the real estate, and also as a “musician.” However, for many years he was an employee at the Union Pacific Railroad.

In 1927, they moved to 509 South 51st Avenue, and in 1951, when Marie was 61, they moved to their last shared residence at 2107 South 40th Street. Marie lived there until her death in 1983, although was several decades by herself after sister Barbara died in 1956, and brother Anton in 1963.

By the 1940s, Marie was receiving attention for her paintings, and was able to transition from “milliner” to recognized award-winning artist. According to a June 14, 1942 Omaha World-Herald feature article, the artist, hoping for some recognition of her regional oil and watercolor paintings, had spent some years of frustration. The reviewer wrote: “Sometimes Marie Jakl is tempted to leave Omaha. She has lived here all her life, and has painted most of it, but apparently people aren’t even aware that she is an Omaha artist. It may be partly her own fault. She’s a quiet person. She doesn’t go around shoving her pictures under people’s noses and insisting that they look. She says she has ‘been quite lucky’ in having the Eastern shows accept her work, but if she’s waiting for local fame to get back to her she may have to be patient a long time. Miss Jakl can’t say that she has not been noticed at all. Her pictures have regularly been included in the Six States Art Exhibition at Joslyn. Last fall she not only had several watercolors in the show, but her oil called Pastoral Picnic took first place over all the other pictures entered….But if there are people in Omaha (and I think there are) who will come to see Nebraska pictures from an interest in art, without looking for a news angle or a Chamber of Commerce build-up, they will enjoy Marie Jakl’s show. Her watercolor style is well handled and effortless and her colors are fresh and pleasing. I like her little mannerism of pulling together the parts of her landscape so that you can see them in one glimpse, instead of being conscious of a detailed fraction of them. And above all, she paints as if she really likes what she’s painting without trying to create effects to impress someone else.”

Among the attention Marie was receiving was acceptance in 1941 of her painting Nebraska Farm in the National Watercolor Exhibition in San Francisco.

Many of her subjects were of urban Omaha such as Left Standing, a depiction of an abandoned structure near 32nd and Ohio Streets. It won the 1942 Omaha World-Herald Annual Exhibition prize, and in 1948, her wash drawing, St. Mary’s Church, a 64th and Dodge Street location, was another World-Herald contest winner. Down South, the painting purchased by Pat Halderman, depicts a farm in a location just north of Cuming Street in Omaha. Halderman learned by email from Meredith McGowan, Curator of the Lincoln Library Heritage Room, that Down South had been a Lincoln Artists’ Guild fund-raising donation to the Heritage Room which, running out of space, had made it available as part of a book sale. Further research by Halderman showed that the painting had been one of two Guild Collection artworks selected at its November 1947 exhibition from 330 Guild entries.

Although she lived in Omaha, Marie Jakl was occasionally active in Lincoln including the Lincoln Artists’ Guild. A special recognition was her invitation to exhibit with the annual exhibitions in 1941 and 1942 of the Nebraska Art Association, support group for the University of Nebraska’s Art Department. Of Marie’s 1941 entry, it was written in The Nebraska State Journal, March 2, 1941: “Fond of painting Nebraska country scenes is Marie Jakl of Omaha, who has sent her watercolor Windmill Fantasy for the Association’s show. This artist, of Bohemian parentage, paints realistically but succeeds in getting a movement in her works, which expresses a particular mood.” The next year on January 18, 1942, these words appeared in the Lincoln Star: “Miss Marie Jakl plays with watercolor in a way that shows fun in painting and in life in general. Amusing details and combinations of colors give her work a great deal of individuality and a ‘folksy’ quality.”

Other activities in Marie Jakl’s life that Pat Halderman uncovered: “In addition to excelling as a fine-art painter, she was socially active in garden clubs; she amassed a collection of 150 rare antique dolls linked to historical events, and displayed them at various events and museums.” She kept the dolls in a special small room in the upstairs of her home at 2107 South 40th Street, and they have been exhibited at the Willa Cather Library in Omaha in 1962, and in 1946 at the Joslyn Art Museum.”

On this subject, an Omaha World-Herald article, January 2, 1962 described Marie as “an artist who is writing a book on dolls” and who “began collecting old ones and then focused on rare ones and collected them on trips around the country, from hobby magazines, and from friends who, knowing her interest just sent them to her…. ‘I discovered an old doll one day and thought a great deal of it. I was enthralled that something so old was still in existence.’ She also “designed and assembled many of the costumes herself. When asked about her favorite doll, she replied ‘A flaxen-haired German bisque doll with blue eyes and pink cheeks. It is so much like the doll I remember hanging on a Christmas tree, holding out its arms to a little girl.’”

Marie was also an avid gardener and won prizes for flower arrangements and her roses. She gave informational talks to many garden clubs in Omaha on how to arrange flowers and how to grow and design gardens. In 1942, she attended the National Garden Club Flower Show in Chicago, and then, representing Nebraska, went on to the International Flower Show in New York City. In Omaha she was elected president of the Hanscom Park Garden Club in 1946. In 1950 she, her sister Barbara, and brother Anton held an open house for the Hanscom Garden Club.

According to her obituary, Marie Jakl died in Omaha in 1983 at age 92 “survived by many cousins.” She was interred at Calvary Cemetery, 7710 West Center Road, Omaha.

The Museum of Nebraska Art has one work by Marie Jakl.

Sources:

Ancestry.com, Oct. 2015
McGowan, Curator of the Heritage Room of the Lincoln Library, Oct. 19, 2014 and Oct. 21, 2014; list of residences and family members; painting titles; copies of newspaper clippings; photo of the painting, Deep South; and excerpts from pertinent quotations.
Museum of Nebraska Art files: Compiled notebook by Patricia Halderman titled Marie Jakl, Born September 8, 1890, Died January 1, 1983.
Omaha World-Herald, newspaper: 10/17/1907, 3/13/1942, 6/14/1942, 11/29/1942, 5/5/1946, 11/20/1946, 11/5/1950, 12/31/1950, 1/02/1962
Weber, Deb, Executive Director, Lincoln Arts Council, Lincoln, Nebraska, Lincoln Artists’ Guild Exhibition Information

Researched, written, and copyrighted by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier

Museum of Nebraska Art Project:
Their Place, Their Time: Women Artists in Nebraska, 1825-1945

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Marie Jakl, Down South, watercolor on paper mounted to wood