Olof Krans (1838 - 1916)

Olof Krans by Martha Jan Downey. © Illinois Historical Art Project

During a career which spanned six decades, Olof Krans painted building exteriors, store fronts and signs; decorated the interiors of private residences, commercial enterprises and churches; created scenery and stage curtains for community organizations; and produced oil paintings, some original and others copied that adorned store interiors and homes. In this regard, Krans was typical of the small town Illinois artist of the nineteenth century. Yet he stands apart from all those other artists by his decision to paint memories of his childhood in the Bishop Hill Colony, a mid-nineteenth century Illinois communal settlement. Of the approximately two hundred canvases that are known to be his, the majority offer a glimpse into the life of a utopian
experiment. The remainders depict the faces, the land and tragedies of nineteenth century small town life.


Olof Krans is entitled to much credit for the faithful reproduction of old colony scenes in a series of large paintings. In his painting of the first dugout houses there were reproduced, principally from memory and measurements.1 There were field scenes of breaking prairie, planting, harvesting and pile driving, “It was a very interesting collection and deserves and will no doubt have a place with a permanent collection of relics, records and souvenirs,” said one local newspaper commenting in a series of articles that reported the fiftieth anniversary the Bishop Hill Colony founding.2 Prophetic words indeed.

According to family and reminiscences collected by George Swank, a Galva historian, Krans was a social man who liked laughter, told a good story, enjoyed children and had lots of friends.3 He was fond of music and even participated as a member of a Galva band. It was remembered that he was generous beyond his means. Swank tells that contemporaries and casual acquaintances felt he wasted time doing his pictures and that he drank too much. Judging from the remaining pictures and the reports in the newspapers regarding his work, it appears he was able to combine both.4 The paintings by Olof Krans have taken their place in the permanent collection of material culture preserving the history of the Bishop Hill Colony under the stewardship of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. This collection has given Krans a reputation beyond that of a typical small town artist and assured his place as one of Illinois’ outstanding folk artists. His extensive series of paintings, painted from childhood memories, includes field scenes, views of Bishop Hill and the town’s earliest settlers. Although during his lifetime Krans produced numerous other works, it is the Bishop Hill group of paintings that demonstrates Krans’ skill as not only a folk artist, but as a historian. Ninety-nine of his works are in the collection of the Bishop Hill State Historic Site. Included in the collection are seventy-one portraits, twelve Bishop Hill scenes, and two stage curtains. Bishop Hill was settled by a group of religious Swedish dissidents led by Eric Janson in 1846. The established Swedish Lutheran Church was being challenged by the Janssonists who were part of the Readers’ Movement. Janson became one of the most radical proponents of the Readers’ Movement in Sweden during the 1840s. He preached perfectionism and a form of “true religious inspiration” which came from the Bible and not Church priests or theologians.5 Janson’s followers challenged the authority of the Swedish State Church.

 

By 1844, this band of people located in the central portion of Sweden, began to hold gatherings at which the works of great Lutheran theologians were burned.6 From that point on, Janson and his followers were arrested, fined and even imprisoned for practicing their faith. The religious persecution became so unbearable that the decision was made to immigrate to the United States. The followers of Janson began selling their possessions and placing their money into a common fund.7 Over twelve hundred individuals would finally leave Sweden to live communally in America. The first group of hardy Janson immigrants arrived in September 1846, and established themselves on the Illinois prairie. They prospered for fifteen years in the Bishop Hill Colony until 1861, when a combination of the Civil War, economic difficulties and dissent among Colony leadership caused them to dissolve the communal organization. Olof Krans was one of the arrivals to the Colony in 1850. He was born November 2, 1838, in Salja, Nora parish, Sweden, to Eric Olsson and Beata Olsson.8 The Olssons were farmers in Sweden and joined the Janssonist movement. After deciding to emigrate, Olof reportedly accompanied his father to visit a shipwright in Gavle to obtain an appraisal for a boat he owned. Like all that followed Janson to America, the Olssons sold their property and contributed the proceeds to a common fund. The shipwright inquired about the boat and Olof drew a fine rendition. The shipwright reportedly said to Eric, “Let me have him, and I shall give him an education and he will make his mark in the world.”9 Eric Olsson, however, had no such intentions; Olof would come with them to America. The family, including four siblings, Peter born 1840, Carin (Kate) born 1842, Eric born 1845, and Anders born 1848, left on the Condor from Gavle, Sweden, arrived in New York on November 9, 1850, and proceed to travel to Bishop Hill.10

 

Arriving eight days before Christmas 1850, the Olssons joined in the life of the Colony.11 Bishop Hill was beginning its most prosperous period even though their leader, Janson, had been murdered in May, 1850.12 Eric worked with the lumber operation of the Colony at Red Oak, a timbered area west of the village, while his wife Beata helped prepare rags for the large quantities of rag carpeting the women of the colony were producing for sale.13 The Krans children attended the Colony school where they learned to speak and read English. The father reported, “Our children went to the English school the entire spring season and they can now read a little and understand the English language pretty well. Olof speaks it often already.”14 By 1852, Olof had been assigned to learn the painting trade where he must have learned the methods of wood graining and spatter painting painted treatments used extensively in the Colony buildings. He also learned some skills as a blacksmith and spent some time working in the carriage shop. Olof also served as an ox boy, a position of responsibility coveted by the young men.15 Ox boys were responsible for the care of the oxen, taking them back and forth from the fields and seeing that they performed their farming tasks. In the paintings Breaking Prairie, and It Will Soon Be Here, ox boys are prominently featured.16

When the Civil War came, Olof enlisted in the Swedish Union Guards, the military company raised in Bishop Hill during the fall of 1861. Upon entering the Union Army as a sergeant on September 14, 1861, Olof took the last name “Krans” the same name used by his father during military service in Sweden, as a means of distinguishing his common name.17 One hundred forty-three members of the Swedish Union Guards were mustered into Company D, 57th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, on December 26, 1861. The group was under the leadership of organizer Eric Forsse, a former sergeant in the Swedish Army who became captain of the Company.18 Company D saw action at Shiloh, Tennessee, April of 1862, eventually participated in Sherman’s March and it was included in the Grand Review at the war’s end. However, Krans had taken ill after the Battle of Fort Donelson and had sent to a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, where he was discharged on June 13, 1862, “incapable of performing the duties of a soldier because of his having chronic Bronchitis & functional disease of the heart….”19

He returned to a changed Bishop Hill where his sweetheart had married someone else and his mother and sister were in debt.20 The communal ownership had been dissolved in 1861, and those remaining were adapting to life of individual ownership. Sven Bjorklund owned a general store on the first floor of the Bjorklund Hotel in Bishop Hill and gave Krans a job for a few months. Soon he found work in Bjorklund’s photography business where he most likely worked as a photographer’s assistant.21 “Olof obviously learned to be at ease in front of the camera and appeared to enjoy having his picture taken.”22 Krans probably used photographs to aid his memory years later as he recorded life at Bishop Hill with oil paint and canvas. It is evident from the inflexible poses of the sitters in his portraits that are very much like photographs of the day in which the sitter was reminded to keep very, very still for the camera. Krans moved to the community of Galesburg, thirty miles southwest of Bishop Hill, in 1865.23 There he met Christina Charlotta Aspequist who was born in Ostergotland, Sweden, October 18, 1836. She had arrived in America in 1857, and eventually settled in Galesburg as a housemaid.24 They were married on December 28, 1868.25 The new couple moved to Galva, a town only a few miles southeast of Bishop Hill which had
been named after the seaport in Sweden, Gavle, from which not only Krans’ family, but many other Bishop Hill Swedes had departed their homeland. In Galva, Krans began to establish himself as a decorative painter and a painter of buildings and business signs.26 His first ad appeared in the Galva Republic in May of 1869: “Krans & Moore are now prepared to do House, Sign, Carriage, and Ornamental Painting, Graining, Glazing, Gilding, paper Hanging, etc. etc., etc., We Warrant All Work.”27 Eventually he worked by himself.

For the next forty-seven years Krans became known for his artistic abilities with a paintbrush. There are numerous reports of Krans working on signs, murals or paintings in the community of Galva. The Galva Weekly News, during its first year of publication in 1879, mentions grocer, E.P. Frisk, having put up a “neat” little sign done by Olof Krans.28 Later in the year there is mention of a drug store sign.29 The sign he painted for the J.A. Noyd boot and shoe store is in the Bishop Hill State Historic Site collection; of unknown date, it the only known surviving commercial sign by Krans. In addition to the more mundane work of the small-town painter Krans also painted scenery for organizational activities. A published report of the Methodist Episcopal Church Christmas exercise featured Santa Claus’ team of deer. These were the work of Krans and were so well made they stood out in three dimensions and were taken by some as real animals.30 The next year for the celebration in Temperance Hall, he painted scenes of Bethlehem with a flock of sheep and the previous deer were brought back as part of the scenery.31

Early in 1880, the Galva Weekly News mentions, “Mr. Krans is justly becoming highly popular as a sign painter.”32 Later the same year it is apparent Krans had established his painting trade well enough to merit notice in the 1880 publication, Svenskarne I Illinois. In the brief biographical information presented on notable Illinois Swedes, it says of him, “Krans is known for his sign, portrait and landscape paintings.”33 There was also the note that Krans “…is a free-thinker and belongs to the Democratic Party.”34 Although self-taught, he worked with the aid of instructional manuals. One was found with his painting kit.35 It was small anonymous booklet entitled A Complete Instruction in the Art of Mixing Shades for painting landscape, flowers, marine and all kinds of industrial work in oil and water.36 Mixtures were recommended for various landscape elements but Krans’ son said the ingenuity of a small town painter included dirt from under the porch when his father wanted a darker shade.37 In 1881, the Galva Weekly News reported Krans repainting the M. E. church,38 graining the J.E. Swanson residence,39 painting a “fine sign” for the millinery store of Mrs. White,40 a fresco in the Melancholy Club room over Ekstrom’s drug store41 and decorating the walls of Gould’s Meat market in Cambridge.42 In a subsequent report of the paintings at Cambridge, the News states, “Olof is the boss painter of the county of Henry—if not the State of Illinois.”43 One of his more ambitious projects in 1881 was the painting and frescoing of the Swedish Lutheran church in Galva:

“…The style is Grecian and the predominant colors, which seem to harmonize perfectly, are sky-blue and a pinkish drab; while of course the cornice and moldings are of various darker shades, blending well with the other colors. The ceiling besides being ornamented with beautiful fresco work, is decked with myriads of stars—apparently, and many of the constellations and groups may be found… Back of this is a perspective of a corridor or hall, leading to the pulpit, the floor, mosaic marble. Above this painted a dove, descending amidst a cloud of light…”44

Throughout the 1880s, Krans was busy painting commercial signs, buildings, residences, and decorative elements, frescoing and oil painting on canvas as well as creating dramatic scenery for various community organizations. Variety was part of his trade and in 1883, he painted scenes, “…for Hilderbrand, the reformed criminal, to be used in illustrating his lectures.”45 Later in the year, there appears the now famous Krans appellation “…wizard of the brush…”46 This is the first known usage of the term “Wizard” for Krans and was to be his moniker the remainder of his career. Reports of both simple and complex commercial signs painted by Krans appear with regularity in the local press. A sign for J. T. Anderson in 1884 was considered a novelty: “It consists of the painting of a large watch from behind which two representations of Father Time appear.”47 By the last years of the decade, Krans was a frequent advertiser in the Galva Weekly News. Often his ads appeared in a business card format: “OLOF KRANS House, sign and ornamental painter, decorator and paper hanger, Special attention given to retouching old and worn oil paintings. Shop in the basement of Olson’s block.”48 The local paper touts Krans’ ability, “As a sign painter ‘O.K.’ is hard to beat.”49 In 1888, he was completing another job for the Swedish Methodist Episcopal Church, although not as elaborate as his previous work there, it certainly was an ambitious project:

“Olof Krans has just finished a neat job of painting on the inside woodwork of the Swedish M.E. Church. The ground work is a delicate lilac. The ends of the pews have alternately a sprig of lilac and an olive branch. The front part of the pulpit has, on one side, the ten commandments symbolized by the numerals, in tablets of stone, and on the other side a cross. The designs and the ground work are all trimmed in gilt.”50

Painting did not consume all of Olof’s time. He served as Officer of the Guard in the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) local Galva Post.51 His loyalty to his war time comrades was evident in his attendance at reunions of the veterans of the Civil War.52 He did not limit his presence to only reunions of Company D,53 but attended the 1884 reunion of the 112th Illinois,54 the 1886 reunions of the 57th Illinois Company D regiment,55 and the Army of the Tennessee,56 as well as the 1887 reunion of the Henry County Soldiers’ Association.57 Upon the death of General Grant in 1885, Krans contributed a life size portrait of the fallen President to the mourning decorations of the Galva City Hall. The display was spearheaded by local firemen. The painting was reportedly hung under the draped symbols of the company. Much of the town of Galva had draped their buildings in mourning during that July.58 Olof had become a charter member of the volunteer fire department in 1879 and served until 1902.59 In 1897, he memorialized the great Galva fire of 1872 in a painting that now hangs in the Galva Historical Society. In addition, Krans painted a sign for the Fire Company consisting of the emblems of the company on the wall above the engine room,60 reading Fire Engine No. 1 Always Ready.61 He took an active civic role in seeking the betterment of the Fire Company. Ten years following the great Galva fire, the firemen petitioned the Galva Village Board of Trustees for location of the Engine House. Krans was one of 118 signers.62 An even more active role occurred one Saturday in 1888. Krans was painting the local skating rink. Upon arriving at about noon he discovered a fire and was able to extinguish it. The paper reported someone had thrown a cigar into one of the wooden spittoons at the rink on the evening before. It had smoldered, eventually combusted, and burned a hole in the oak floor that was large enough for a man to crawl through.63

Krans also painted the scenery for the play, Under the Gas Light, presented by the Fire Company.64 He prepared four different scenes including a seascape that reportedly undulated due to an “ingenious arrangement.”65 Krans put his profession to practical use, painting the town fireplugs pale white making them more visible during evening hours.66 Possessing an ingenious active mind, Krans turned his hand to inventing on at least one occasion:

 

“Olof Krans has invented an ornamental knob for the end of a parasol. The knob contains a small chamber closed with a perforated cap. A small piece of sponge is saturated with perfume and placed in the chamber and the cap screwed on. A little valve is used to open or close the perforated top. Olof has applied for a patent, and soon all the girls in the country will promenade the streets smelling their parasol handles.”67

Galva resident, Maude Olson Seely remembered this devise as a cane. According to her it was one of Krans’ favorite jokes to walk the street with this cane and greet passersby that were suddenly enveloped by the scent.68 In November 1891, the Galva Republican reported an accident at the International Order of Foresters Hall in which scaffolding had fallen and injured Krans.69 This was the beginning of a period of Krans working in his basement studio with limited light, in the Olson Block in Galva, as he was unlikely able to continue decorating work until he recovered and could climb back upon the scaffolds.70 In 1893, a panic and depression hit the United States and impacted everyone. This may have had an effect on Krans’ decorating business, which may have given rise to more easel painting. He was working for the Hayes Pump & Planter factory in Galva, dipping parts in paint, at this time.71 Had Krans only continued painting the signs, houses, storefronts, interiors of churches and homes, he would have been remembered only locally in his home communities of Galva and Bishop Hill. However, beginning in 1895, Krans painted a series of remarkable paintings from memory which would elevate him above other typical small town painters.

According to the painter’s son, Olof M. Krans:

 

“Father had a strong sense of the historical. He did think his paintings would be good for history, and he was careful about the correctness of every detail. That was his reason for painting them, that they should portray the history of the Bishop Hill colony. Father would be prouder of them today than when he was painting them.”72

 

In Bishop Hill, the Auditorium Club had converted the Colony Bakery and Brewery building into a community hall. Krans was commissioned to produce a drop curtain and scenery for this facility. While the scenery has been lost through time, the remaining stage curtain (Bishop Hill State Historic Site) is a grand panorama of Bishop Hill in 1855. Painted from the vantage-point north of the Edwards River looking south towards the village, this ten by fifteen foot painting shows in detail many of the still extant Colony buildings. Krans painted additional stage curtains for the communities of New Windsor and Osco.73 One of the Osco curtains is also in the Bishop Hill State Historic Site collection. Following the delivery of this curtain the Auditorium Club was so pleased with the result they organized a surprise evening for the artist. There were musical numbers, a speech by P.L. Johnson presenting a brief history of the building and Krans was invited to the stage. Johnson, on behalf of the Club, presented the artist with $65 and a gold-headed cane. The festivities ended with an exhibition of the drop curtain and scenery. “All was creditable, but the chief interest centered on the drop curtain which those who remember, claim to be a faithful representation of Bishop Hill as it appeared in 1855.”74 The popularity with which this curtain was received might have provided the motivation for the artist to begin painting other scenes from his childhood. The fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Bishop Hill Colony was approaching and the community was making plans for a grand reunion.75 Whatever the motivating factor, by September 1896, Krans had produced seven major scenes of colony life.

 

Today these are at the Bishop Hill Museum and Bishop Hill State Historic Site. The order in which they were painted is not known, but a brief note from the artist states they were ready. “Mr. Myrtengren, My Picktures [sic] is all finished and I wish you would tell my Brother Pete or somebody else to come and get them in the morning early, I want to get them up and varnish the canvases don’t come with a single buggy. OKrans.”76 Unloaded and hung in time to be viewed by the hundreds of former Colonists and descendants, they provided an amazing visual memory of the Bishop Hill Colony. Chronologically they begin with Bishop Hill in 1846. This depicts the first temporary Colony living quarters. Life was difficult those first years with lack of adequate food and rampaging disease, but Krans painting shows neat rows of dug-outs and the communal kitchens on the hill top. The memory of hardship had diminished as the years passed. The Illinois prairie horizon is especially evident in four agricultural work scenes. Each shows the gentle rolling horizon of the land surrounding Bishop Hill and the backbreaking work that went into producing crops from the prairie. Breaking Prairie, shows two men behind ploughs and on each, six yokes of oxen attempting to break up the deep roots of the lush green prairie grasses. Even the Bishop Hill ox boys are visible walking along side the oxen with whips in hand. Two paintings have planting as their predominate theme. Sowing depicts men broadcasting seeds into the rich black soil with a woman in the foreground marking the places. On the horizon of this painting are seven men, each at a plough with a team of horses. Corn Planting, certainly Krans most well-known painting, shows twenty-four women in a row on freshly prepared ground, each with a hoe apron tied up into a seed pouch. At each end of the line is a man holding a row marker.

Harvesting captures the rhythm of the wheat harvest and like Corn Planting, the ability of the communal work force to accomplish tasks efficiently. Seven men are swinging the grain cradles while twelve women dressed in blue or brown follow behind bundling the freshly cut wheat. This painting is alive with the colors of the golden wheat, blue sky and dress of the laboring Colonists. An Illinois resident does not have to use imagination to feel the raw bite of a November day when viewing Pile Driving. A group of women bundled up against the cold are standing on the partially finished bridge over the Edwards River. Each has a rope in hand ready when the young man instructs the women to pull the rope and release it in order to drop a weight onto the bridge’s piling which is being driven into the river bed.

Response at the Fiftieth Anniversary Reunion was enthusiastic and in the coming years Krans was to add other paintings to this remarkable collection.77 Primarily they were portraits of former Colonists who had pivotal leadership positions during the communal era. The invention and proliferation of photography ended work for many folk portraitists, however it seems to have helped Krans. These portraits, completed at the beginning of the new century, were made from photographs produced by local studios.78 However, Krans also utilized his memory for portraits of a few of the long dead Colonists, including his father who died in 1854. One cannot help but wonder about the other memories of the Bishop Hill Colony life that Krans could have painted.79 However, Krans began utilizing popular prints for the subjects he sought to copy. Skogens Konung, meaning “king of the forest” is a copy of a Rosa Bonheur canvas. Krans painted several versions of this well known work, including three which are in the collection at Bishop Hill. This particular scene of a majestic forest buck typifies Krans’ love for animals. He had a great love of dogs and all animals. There are many tales of his care for dogs and they are often depicted in his paintings. His son said: “Father was crazy about painting wild life.”80 Krans also copied masterpieces such as Rubens’ Descent From the Cross, painted for the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church in Galva.81 He completed another copy of it for the Swedish Lutheran Church in Norway, Michigan, the next year.82

In 1903, Krans and Christina moved to nearby Altona, Illinois, to live in a house owned by their son Frank who was the proprietor of The Altona Record daily newspaper. Krans took a studio on Broadway Street.83 He advertised papering, graining and interior decoration: “quality and price cannot be excelled.”84 Olof’s new space was big enough to also paint buggies.85 He produced several paintings during this period, known from the dated canvasses and produced several likenesses of local townspeople.86. He continued his commercial wallpaper and painting business in Altona.87 In his last few years, he continued to paint at home, though his health was deteriorating from bronchial problems.88 In 1912, he formally donated most of his work to the Old Settlers’ Association in Bishop Hill.89 In his small studio, paintings continued to accumulate until he died on January 4, 1916.90 As he reflected upon his life, a small and fitting tribute was penned on his last pension check, “O Krans vara god skylt-, portratt-, landskaps-malare” (sign, portrait and landscape painter).91 He was buried in the Galva Cemetery following services in Altona.92 The reputation of Olof Krans as a folk artist and historian has grown since his death. Although the collection of paintings given to the people of Bishop Hill has always been valued by thecommunity for historic significance, it has only been in recent years his reputation as a folk artist has been solidified.


During the fall of 1938, a number of Bishop Hill Colony objects became part of the Index of American Design sponsored by the Works Progress Administration. Nine paintings by Krans were copied by various Index artists including seven work scenes (previously described) and portraits of Charlotta Root and Lars Soderquist.93 These were then exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum in 1942.94 Later evaluations of his work have been very positive. Discussing Harvesting, it was said that:


“Something of the vastness of the prairies carries over into this picture, with its yellow harvest fields against a luminous sky. The primitive artist is impressed with the desirability of expression and he exaggerates. Men stare as if in grim determination and women move awkwardly. Krans was not interested in variety in the action of his figures. Instead he makes us feel the farm labor is here organized to function with the regularity of a machine.”95

 

Professor William Gerdts wrote, “Illinois’ most famous primitive artist was Olof Krans.”96 William Truettner said, “His work celebrates the sect’s devotion to communal labor.”97 And from George Swank, the one who studied Krans most:

“It is an anthology in art—that collection of faces without smiles and eyes which seem intent on recapturing another remnant of their immigrant experience… The portraits outnumber by far the scenes of Colony life, because the main Krans interest was in people as individuals and with each face he lifted many rank-andfile Colonists above communal anonymity.”98

 

International recognition has also come to Krans. The influence of the emigration of the Bishop Hill Colonists on future Swedish emigrants cannot be overstated. Their relocation to the United States influenced over 1.3 million Swedes to leave Sweden between 1846 and 1930. In Tarnsjo, Sweden, there is an Olof Krans Museum and one of that country’s historians, Olov Isaksson, wrote:

 

“Krans cannot be called a primitivist. He was a narrator and portrait painter, as aware of the content of his pictures as of their composition and colours. His paintings of himself as a seventy-year-old, or his brother Peter with horse and cart remind one of another painter-narrator, Henri Rousseau, le Douanier.”99

The Director of the National Museum in Stockholm, Bengt Dahlback, stated, “The paintings of Olof Krans, “…are not only interesting documents for the early history of this settlement but also important works of art by a genuinely naïve artist.”100 In 1969, Bishop Hill, A Utopia on the Prairie, featuring Krans’ Bishop Hill scenes, was held at the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm, Sweden. Folk Art of Illinois, 1981-82, which toured Illinois, included paintings by Krans. In 1982, A Prairie Vision: The World of Olof Krans, was at the Museum of American Folk Art in New York. Their Majesties, King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, viewed this exhibition on a visit to the United States. In 1990, Corn Planting, was part of the Museum of American Folk Art’s Five-Star Folk Art exhibition and The West as America exhibit utilized Sowing.101 As part of a combined United States and Sweden celebration in 1996, commemorating the beginning of the Great Migration from Sweden to this county, an exhibition at the Nordiska Muset in Stockholm was organized. Nytt Liv—Nytt Land included work by Krans. On September 14, 1996, Their Majesties visited Bishop Hill on its 150th anniversary celebration and toured the Bishop Hill Museum where the Krans collection is exhibited. The Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences in Peoria, also celebrated Olof Krans and Bishop Hill’s 150th with the exhibit, Olof Krans and Bishop Hill—the Immigrant Experience.102 Olof Krans may typify the small-town Illinois artist of the 19th century, but his inspired decision to record his childhood memories of the unique communal settlement in Bishop Hill enhanced his place in Illinois history and folk art. His fame and reputation have spread further because he had been a participant in that unique experiment on the Illinois prairie.

ENDNOTES: [An earlier version of Chicago Manual Style is used as it is more helpful to researchers]

1 Houses were dug into both sides of a ravine with walls of rough logs. Built for twentysome people, each house was about twenty by thirty feet. These houses were later replaced with large buildings that provided communal dormitory style living quarters for the Colonists.
2 The Galva Weekly News, 10/1/1896.
3 See also: Margaret E. Jacobson, “The Painted Record of a Community Experiment: Olof Krans and his Pictures of the Bishop Hill Colony,” The Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Vol. 34, June 1941, p.176.
4 George Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, (Galva, IL: Galvaland Press, 1976), p.139-140.
5 Paul Elmen, Wheat Flour Messiah: Eric Jansson of Bishop Hill, (Carbondale, IL.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1976), pp.37-48.
6 Op. cit., Elmen, Wheat Flour Messiah, pp.60-77
7 Olov Isaksson, Bishop Hill, Ill.: A Utopia on the Prairie, translated by Albert Read, (Stockholm: LT Publishing House, 1969), p.55.
8 Nils William Olsson, Swedish Passenger Arrivals in New York 1820-1850, (Chicago: The Swedish Pioneer Society, 1967), p.263.
9 Op. cit., Jacobson, The Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, June 1941, pp.170-171.
10 Op. cit., Olsson, Swedish Passenger Arrivals in New York 1820-1850, pp.260-263.
11 Lilly Setterdahl, translator, “Emigrant Letters of Bishop Hill Colonists from Nora Parish, 1847-1856,” copy, Bishop Hill Heritage Association Research Collection, Bishop Hill, Illlinois, p.18.
12 Bishop Hill grew to almost 1,000 residents, 12,000 acres of land, successful workshops, a broomcorn factory and brick kiln. There were 140 spinning wheels in family quarters and more in the communal workshop. Brick buildings had replaced the cold and damp dugouts and over a thousand worshipers could pray in the new church. See: Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, pp.69, 81.
13 Anna Wadsworth Murray, “Olof Krans,” Chicago History, Chicago Historical Society, Vol. 10, Winter 1981-1982, p.244.
14 Op. cit., Setterdahl, “Emigrant Letters of Bishop Hill Colonists from Nora Parish, 1847-1856,” p.25.
15 Op. cit., Jacobson, The Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, p.172.
16 Painted many years later, Krans had remarkable recall of his youth.
17 Op. cit., Jacobson, The Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, p.172.
18 Roger Kvist, “The Swedish Union Guards of Bishop Hill during the Civil War,” Swedish American Genealogist, Vol.16, September 1996, p.193.
19 Op. cit., Jacobson, The Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, p.172 and op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.97.
20 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, pp.95, 98.
21 Op. cit., Jacobson, The Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, p.173 and op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.98.

22 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.99.
23 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.99.
24 The Galva Weekly News, 4/22/1920. This information was also taken by Swank from an immigration permit lent by John Krans, see: Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.145.
25 Olof and Christine had four children: Frank, Carl and Olof, Jr., and a daughter Lulu, who died in infancy. Christine died in 1920, age 83. See op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.144 and pp.146-148 for a thorough account of their lives.
26 In op. cit., Jacobson, The Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, p.173, she maintains they were married and moved to Galva in 1867. This is inaccurate.
27 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.104.
28 The Galva Weekly News, 12/6/1879.
29 The Galva Weekly News, 12/13/1879.
30 The Galva Weekly News, 12/27/1879.
31 The Galva Weekly News, 12/23/1880 and 12/30/1880.
32 The Galva Weekly News, 1/30/1880.
33 Eric Johnson and C.F. Peterson, Svenskarne I Illinois: Historiska Anteckningar, (Chicago: Tryckt Hos W. Williamson, 1880), pp.317-318.
34 Op. cit., Johnson and Peterson, Svenskarne I Illinois: Historiska Anteckningar, p.318.
35 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.52.
36 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.60.
37 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.60.
38 The Galva Weekly News, 8/25/1881.
39 The Galva Weekly News, 5/12/1881.
40 The Galva Weekly News, 2/3/1881.
41 The Galva Weekly News, 12/22/1881.
42 The Galva Weekly News, 11/3/1881.
43 The Galva Weekly News, 3/17/1881.
44 The Galva Weekly News, 3/3/1881.
45 The Galva Weekly News, 3/8/1883.
46 The Galva Weekly News, 4/19/1883.
47 The Galva Weekly News, 10/16/1884.
48 The Galva Weekly News, 7/7/1887.
49 The Galva Weekly News, 7/7/1887.
50 The Galva Weekly News, 6/7/1888.
51 The Galva Weekly News, 1/26/1899
52 The Galva Weekly News, 12/15/1887.
53 The Galva Weekly News, 10/8/1885.
54 The Galva Weekly News, 8/28/1884.
55 The Galva Weekly News, 8/26/1886.
56 The Galva Weekly News, 9/16/1886.
57 The Galva Weekly News, 10/6/1887.
58 The Galva Weekly News, 7/30/1885. His further contributions to a military past and his sense of loyalty to the Army included work in 1900, in which Krans painted a portion of the cemetery at Rock Island Arsenal where members of the 12th, 29th and 57th Illinois regiments are buried. (Bishop Hill State Historic Site). Krans’ best known military painting is a 1908 full length self-portrait (privately owned), signed “OKrans at 22 Ptd 1908.” The painting
shows young Krans dressed in his best U.S. army uniform, brimming with gold buttons, and included army tents with an unfurled U.S. flag in the background.
59 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.115, 116.
60 The Galva Weekly News, 7/2/1885. He later donated his 1911 full-length portrait of J. Pemberton Gibbs, the Galva Fire Chief, dressed, ready to fight a fire, to the Galva fire department (Galva Historical Society).
61 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.116.
62 The Galva Weekly News, 9/21/1882.
63 The Galva Weekly News, 7/19/1888.
64 The Galva Weekly News, 4/16/1885.
65 The Galva Weekly News, 4/9/1885.

66 The Galva Weekly News, 1/16/1896.
67 The Galva Weekly News, 5/5/1888.
68 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.142.
69 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.48.
70 Op. cit., Jacobson, The Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, p.175 and op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony. A photograph of the entry to the studio appears in Swank, p.108.
71 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.111.
72 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.23.
73 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, pp.57-58.
74 The Galva Weekly News, 4/11/1895 and op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.55.
75 Merle Glick, “The World of Olof Krans,” The Clarion, Fall 1982, p.27.
76 Letter to Mr. Myrtengren from Olof Krans, Galva Historical Society, Collection of George Swank, box 1, 9/22/1896.
77 The Galva Weekly News, 10/1/1896.
78 Op. cit., Glick, The Clarion, Fall 1982, p.29.
79 Op. cit., Glick, The Clarion, Fall 1982, p.29.
80 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, pp.123-126.
81 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, pp. 53, 54.
82 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.54.
83 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, pp.146, 168.
84 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.169.
85 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.169.
86 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.169.
87 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.169.
88 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.172.
89 The Galva Standard, 9/26/1912.
90 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.170.
91 Op. cit., Johnson and Peterson, Svenskarne I Illinois: Historiska Anteckningar, 1880, pp.317-318.
92 The Galva Weekly News,1/6/1916.
93 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.14.
94 New York Times, 11/20/1942, col. 1, Sec. 1, p.21; “Index of American Design,” Design, Vol. 44, May 1943, p.17 and New York Herald Tribune, 12/13/1942 in the New York Public Library artist file K367/D2.
95 Erwin Christensen, The Index of American Design, (New York: Macmillan Co, 1950), p.25.
96 William H. Gerdts, Art Across America: Two Centuries of Regional Paintings, Vol. 2, (NewYork: Abbeville Press, 1990), p.323.
97 William H. Truettner, ed., The West and America: Reinterpreting Images of the Frontier 1820-1920, (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), p.227.
98 Op. cit., Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony, p.35.
99 Op. cit., Isaksson, Bishop Hill, Ill.: A Utopia on the Prairie, p.164.
100 Galva Historical Society, Swank Collection, Box 1.
101 Bishop Hill State Historic Site, loan records.
102 Bishop Hill State Historic Site, loan records.