top of page



Click on an image for enlargement and more information


John Spelman (1880 - 1941)

John Spelman was born in Owatonna, MN, on September 30, 1880. At the age of 12, he moved to Minneapolis where he attended the North Side High School. About 1900 his mother, a widow, two brothers, George and Herbert, and a sister, Mabel, and he moved to Oak Park, Illinois.  His interest in the beauties of nature while still a boy created a desire to portray on canvas for his and others pleasure the grandeur of the great out of doors.

Shortly after coming to Oak Park he took up the study of art at the Chicago Art Institute at night, being otherwise employed during the day. Later he became associated with his brothers in the newspaper circulating business and after a few years was able to devote most of his time to the further study of art under the instruction of John Vanderpoel, Charles Francis Browne and others of note in the field of art.

For more than 30 years he and his family spent their summers and some winters in their log cabin and studio on the north shore of Lake Superior, about 22 miles northeast of Grand Marais, where he painted many north woods scenes in all seasons of the year. His paintings of the Smokies and Cumberlands with their mystic haze have gained an enduring place in the hearts of those who love the southern highlands. 

The years he spent on woodland trails and over stream and lake with canoe and paddle brought him in close communion with nature in all its ramifications to the end that he was enabled to transmit its beauties to canvas. 

He was a member of the Austin, Oak Park and River Forest Art League, a member of the Palette and Chisel Club, the Chicago Galleries Association and the Academy of Fine Arts. He was the recipient of many honors and awards from fellow artists' groups, museums and galleries. 

Spelman died on Monday, May 19, l941, in Moose Lake, MN. He had made his home for the last few years of his life in Grand Marais, MN.


bottom of page