Charlotte Leaming

Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Chicago, Cook County
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
Colorado Springs, CO
Active In: 
Annual Exhibition of Works by Chicago Artists, AIC, 1901
Summer Exhibit of Works by Chicago Artists, AIC, 1904
Denver (CO) Artists' Society, 1911
Colorado Springs (CO), 1914, 15, 16
International Art Center, NYC, 1924

Chicago artist Charlotte Leaming (1871-1972) was a painter of animals. Imagine how complicated it was for a young woman of the late 19th century to find models to paint in the city. To observe and sketch her favorite subjects, Charlotte arranged visits to Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, traveling circuses and to country farms. She purchased several sheep and a cow as her models and kept them in her studio in downtown Chicago. While working, she wore a short skirt when most Chicago women donned floor-length dresses; and her shoes weren’t high-heeled slippers, instead they were constructed like a man’s shoe -- thick to keep out the cold of the studio that was suited to her wooly models.

In May 1901 the Chicago Daily Tribune reported that, “The residents of Lake avenue near Fortieth street, saw a tall, slender young woman in a painting apron, brilliant as Joseph’s coat, rushing madly down the middle of the street after two sheep. Paint brushes in one hand, palette in the other, she ran for two blocks, then transferring the brushes to the hand that held the palette she made a final dash and clutched the ram’s wooly back. After that it was a mere matter of tugging and persuasion to get both at the mild-eyed animals back to the studio, which is a large room in a barn, especially adapted to the work to which the painter of animals devotes her time.”

Charlotte studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, and took classes with William M. Chase and Albert Herter in New York and with Frank Duveneck in Cincinnati. She exhibited her paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, where she also taught classes from 1898 through 1905. She was also an art instructor at the Oak Park, Illinois schools and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1900s.

In 1911 she joined her sister Susan Leaming in Colorado Springs, where they were directors of the Academy of Fine Arts at Colorado College. The school offered nine month courses were given in drawing and painting, design, illustration and commercial art. Susan taught art history, while Charlotte shared her expertise in painting and drawing animals and landscapes with her students. Charlotte retired from teaching in 1940.