KANEVILLE – A painting from Kaneville native and distinguished painter Grace Ravlin was featured March 5 on the “Antiques Roadshow,” a PBS show, where it was appraised at a value of $15,000 to $20,000. The 1920 oil painting was brought by Justin Anderson, a distant relative of Ravlin’s. Anderson inherited the painting from his grandfather, Francis Ravlin, said Anderson’s father, David Anderson.
Grace Ravlin had several connections to Kaneville, Kaneville Township Historical Society Director and Treasurer Karen Flamand said.
“Grace Ravlin was born in 1873 and lived in Kaneville until she went abroad to study art from 1906 until 1921,” Flamand said. “Grace’s grandfather, the Rev. Thomas Ravlin, came to Kaneville in 1845 and was the first Baptist preacher in Kaneville. In Kaneville, Grace was a teacher at a grade school. … Grace was unique in that she traveled further than Europe and went to North Africa unaccompanied by a chaperone.”
A love of painting carried down throughout Ravlin’s family, and relative Alta Ann Parkins Morris was greatly influenced by Ravlin’s paintings and travels.
There are many aspects of Ravlin’s paintings that Parkins Morris appreciates.
“Grace was the youngest child in her family, and her father gave her a lot of favor,” Parkins Morris said. “For her paintings, she prided herself on choosing views, landscapes and subjects not everyone would choose. She had an incredible sense of composition and would paint different views from everyone else. She also painted Native American paintings and many scenes from North Africa, Morocco and Tunisia. Grace had a beautiful sense of color.”
Some people would say Ravlin was an ethnographic painter who painted people from different cultures and backgrounds and others will say she’s an impressionist or a modernist painter, Parkins Morris said. According to the Illinois Women Artists Project, Ravlin painted in both a modernism and post-impressionism style.
“Grace promoted the idea of her work being ethnographic and would have loved to be called an ethnographic painter,” Parkins Morris said. “I don’t see her paintings as impressionist paintings.”
Parkins Morris explained how the angles Ravlin would paint depicted different views that might have been influenced by her family.
“Grace would often choose a place where she was up and away from a site she was painting as if she were up in a box in a theater,” Parkins Morris said. “One of Grace’s older brothers would take her to the theater. I draw the connection between her sitting high up in the theater and looking down at the scene. She had a big interest in architecture. For her painting, ‘Armistice Day Parade’ at Fifth Avenue at 42 Street in New York City, she found a building where she could look down at Fifth Avenue. She painted the parade coming down the street.”
The stories behind Ravlin’s travels are well-preserved. Parkins Morris along with Eva Moore edited 125 of Ravlin’s letters she wrote to her family when she was traveling in Europe and North Africa in an unpublished book “‘Yours Always, Grace’ Letters of Grace Ravlin, American Artist: Paintings, Travels, and Adventures Far From Home.”
Parkins Morris learned about Ravlin’s travels and her personality from her letters.
“I was reading her letters when I was finishing art school at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts,” Parkins Morris said. “I had no idea Grace was so determined. I simply went to art school. I was following the catalog. She studied at The Art Institute of Chicago, and she also studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Pennsylvania with William Merritt Chase, a famous artist who was known worldwide. What she did was beyond anything I could imagine. She didn’t just follow what she was told to do. The letters we included in the book are accurate and in her voice. They tell her story.”
Information on Ravlin’s paintings along with a few of her letters can be found at graceravlin.com.