Bertha Wilhelmina Wenzlaff

Bertha Wilhelmina Wenzlaff

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Pencil drawing on paper, measures 13.5" wide by 18.5" high, signed on reverse. 

Bertha Wilhelmina Wenzlaff Jones, 1870-1957, Ukrainian/Russian born painter who grew up in South Dakota, lived in Illinois, New York, Idaho, Colorado, California, etc.

Bertha Wilhelmina Wenzlaff Jones painter and artist, according to her obituary, was born in the Russian held Ukraine in 1870 to Johann Christian (1827-1894) and Johanna Christina Heinzelmann Wenzlaff, who according to my research were German immigrants to the Ukraine, part of a larger group of Germans who left for the Ukraine in the early 1800’s, who were known as Bessarabia Germans.

An excerpt from the book “History of Dakota Territory” by George Washington Kingsbury, that talks at length about her siblings and her parents:

“Bertha, now Mrs. William Jones, is a teacher of art at a school in Los Angeles, California. She studied in the Chicago Art Institute and the Cooper Institute of New York, attaining no little celebrity as a portrait painter.” Before going to the Chicago Art Institute and Cooper Union, she attended Yankton College. According to Kingsbury’s book mentioned above, her and brother both went to school in Chicago, Illinois. Also according to her obituary, she attended the Conservatory of Music in Chicago, although I don’t yet know exactly which Conservatory this was, as there are a few in Chicago that the obituary could be referring to.

While at Cooper Union in New York City, she was awarded a diploma in Drawing from Antique and Life, as well as a Silver Medal for a first year student in Drawing from Life, a Silver Medal for Oil Painting - Still Life, and an Honorable Mention for Oil Painting - Portrait. It is also of note that Robert Swain Gifford, well known American landscape painter was the Art Director and instructor of Oil painting at the Woman’s Art School at the Cooper Union during Bertha’s time there.  


1.  Deutsche Welle. "Exhibition recalls forgotten German settlements in Moldova | Culture | DW.COM | 04.11.2010." DW.COM. Accessed January 20, 2017.

2. Kingsbury, George W. History of Dakota Territory. Edited by George Martin Smith. Vol. 5. Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1915. p. 750

3.  The Annual Report of the Trustees of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. 42nd ed. John F. Trow, 1901.