Art of the Landscape:  A Retrospective on the Landscape Architect

Jens Jensen

photography by Arie S. Friedman


paintings by Yelena Klairmont

Artwork on display at:

Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society

361 East Westminster
Lake Forest, IL 60045

Phone; 847 234 LAKE
Fax: 847 234 5236

Free Opening Reception:   Sunday, February 4, 2007   (1 - 5 pm)

Artwork on display through April 15, 2007

Gallery Viewing Hours:  Tues, Wed. Thurs. & Sundays from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.


Jensen's Bridge today as photographed by Arie S. Friedman


Prairie Style Landscape Master Jens Jensen:  The Local Connection

A lecture by Dr. Arthur Miller Archivist & Librarian for Special Collections at the Lake Forest College Library

 April 15, 2007 at 3 pm

 at the Meyer Auditorium, Hotchkiss Hall, Lake Forest College

In honor of Jensen’s original walking tour group, the “Prairie Club”, the gallery will be distributing guides to visitors who wish to conduct their own series of "Saturday Afternoon Walking Trips," to the Jensen areas in Highland Park, Ravinia and Lake Forest.











Jens Jensen (b. Sept 13, 1860 – d. Oct. 1, 1951)  During the late nineteenth century, Chicago and the surrounding areas developed quickly. Skyscrapers, the city’s elevated railway system, improved roads, and a new drainage system helped to rank Chicago as an important city.   However, a Danish immigrant, Jens Jensen realized that the native landscape was quickly disappearing and set out to preserve it.   It wasn't long before Jensen’s prairie style of landscape architecture attracted attention.   North Shore residents from Lake Forest, Highland Park and nearby Ravinia and in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin commissioned Jensen to create his "American Garden" on their private estates (among them the Armours, Rosenwalds, Florsheims, Ryersons, Beckers and Fords).   He founded the Friends of Our Native Landscape, an organization that was instrumental in preserving important natural areas throughout the Midwest.   He was a driving force in establishing the Illinois State Parks system and the Cook County Forest Preserve District, the Illinois state park system, the Indiana Dunes State Park and National Lakeshore.  For Chicago’s West Park System, he created Columbus Park on the western edge of Chicago, and redesigned three other large west-side parks (Humboldt, Garfield, and Douglas) as well as 15 small ones. He also designed parks in smaller cities – among them Racine and Madison, Wisconsin; Dubuque, Iowa; and Springfield, Illinois.




A photograph of Rosewood Bridge taken by Jensen, so named for the Rosewood estate (now known as Rosewood Park) located at the east end of Roger Williams Avenue in Highland Park, IL -  circa 1914.


















and Players’ Green

With a background in folk school traditions in Denmark, Jensen recognized the need to build an appreciation in the arts within his park settings. While Jensen’s park designs were meant to bring a sense of peace and harmony to the visitor, he also created spaces where people could gather and celebrate. In many of his small park designs, he included a players’ green or council ring which he based on his studies of native American Indians ceremonies.

Making a connection between the performing arts and nature, Jensen’s players’ green was a slightly elevated sun-opening which served as the stage for outdoor theatrical performances. The audience would be seated on the ground on an adjacent meadow.

Jensen’s council rings were created from stacks of flat layered limestone (forming a circular bench), and served as a gathering or meeting place within his natural settings. These rings were a favorite for story telling using masks, for drumming circles and other outdoor theatrical productions which were intended to educate people about nature and conservation.

In this exhibit, you will also see paintings by Yelena Klairmont of Caldwell's Pond - Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, IL.   Landscape architect Alfred Caldwell was a local Chicago-area practitioner and a protégé of legendary Chicago landscape architect Jens Jensen. Between 1924 and 1929, Caldwell assisted Jensen on some of his most important projects.  Caldwell described his mentor as “the great symbol of my life.”   Caldwell designed several park projects, including the Lily Pool in Lincoln Park in the late 1930s.  This pond serves as an important resting point for several species of migratory birds.

Jensen & Caldwell




Following his retirement at age 75, Jensen purchased land in Door County, Wisconsin and achieved his longtime dream of establishing "The Clearing" whose mission is "to provide diverse educational experiences in the folk school tradition, in a setting of quiet forests, meadows and water. The Clearing is a place where adults who share an interest in nature, arts or humanities can learn, reflect and wonder...  Jensen saw The Clearing as a place where city people could renew their contact with the 'soil' as a basis for life values.  Today, many people come to The Clearing for this same sense of renewal and to be able to better manage the stresses and strains of everyday life in a complex and fast-paced world."


Jensen at the Cliff House in The Clearing, WI.








The Jensen family at the beach in Door County, WI











Jensen as a young man and later contemplating at his Council Ring on his property in Ravinia, IL (Dean Avenue).



The Photographer and Author

In addition to his landscape designs, Jensen was a talented photographer. He documented and photographed the natural areas and its flora throughout the Midwest. Jensen’s style of photography was similar to that of his landscape design in that he studied the light and contrast around his subject. Preferring close-up images of plants and trees, Jensens photos document the types of native plants, shrubs, trees, and limestone materials he used in his landscaping.  

Jensen also authored "Siftings", a sort of memoir where he shares his memories of "wandering in many lands".

        Jensen in 1943          A photo taken by Jensen in 1913 at Dune Park, IN

Starry False Solomon's Seal (Smilacina stellata)

courtesy of Jensen Collection, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Jensen's book Siftings

Series: American Land Classics
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Year: 1990

Where are Jensen's landscapes today?

Jensen's prairie style landscapes were commissioned by homeowners along Chicago's North Shore between 1900 and 1935, but only a portion have been identified.   “Jensen landscapes are worth their weight in gold,” says Arthur Miller, from Lake Forest College, "Of the roughly 40 known Jensen commissions in Lake Forest alone, just over half have been pinpointed. The rest, if they exist, are at risk of destruction by uninformed property owners."     In the late 1980s, Two Gables - a mansion on Green Bay Road owned by television star "Mr. T" - caused a nationally-publicized uproar when he destroyed Jensen designed gardens and cut down more than 100 trees on the grounds, reportedly because they bothered his allergies. The current owners have expressed long-range plans to restore the grounds to the Jensen design. 

Preservation of the actual places created by Jensen is as important as preserving the legacy of his ideas,” writes Robert E. Grese, author of  Jens Jensen: Maker of Natural Parks and Gardens, “Now, more than ever, urban as well as suburban and rural people need to feel reconnected to the natural landscape and its cycles.”

Many Jensen landscapes have survived on the North Shore, including the Evanston Art Center and Mahoney Park in Kenilworth.  Below are others...



Jens Jensen landscaped the Rosenwald estate, now known as Rosewood Park.    It was purchased by the Highland Park Park District from the Rosenwald family in two parts, the first in 1928 the second in 1945. 

 The reflecting pond at Upper Rosewood is what remains of his work.

Also site of Jensen's famous stone bridge.




Jensen's Shakespeare Garden can still be found on the Northwestern University Campus.




540 Roger Williams Avenue, Highland Park, IL

Designed by Jensen in 1924, the park sits just two blocks from Jensen’s former residence and studio in Ravinia.   The park consists of native shrubs and trees, natural materials and a stone council ring. The large boulder in the middle of the ring is a memorial to Augusta (Mrs. Julius) Rosenwald, Jensen’s patron and friend. The park was restored and dedicated to Jensen in 1980. The informative kiosk was donated by the North Shore Garden Club and the perennial garden was donated by the Ravinia Garden Club.

Unfortunately, like many of Jensen’s native designs, the park went feral for several years until a group of residents from Ravinia formed the "Friends of Jens Jensen Park".   The neighborhood initiative began to raise funds to restore the park and in June 2006, The Friends of Jens Jensen Park and the Park District of Highland Park held a groundbreaking ceremony for the restoration of the Jens Jensen Park.   In September 2007, a re-dedication ceremony was held in the park.


(Lake Forest, IL)
(photos courtesy of the Lake Forest - Lake Bluff Historical Society)


Mr. and Mrs. J. Ogden Armour, heir to the Armour meat packing fortune, hired architect Arthur Heun to design their home in 1904-1908 at a cost of ten million dollars. Of the ten million, two million was allocated for the Jensen designed gardens and grounds.

In 1947, the estate and grounds were purchased by the Lake Forest Academy. Since then, the property has been parceled off. The mansion is still owned by the Lake Forest Academy and is used primarily for weddings and other catered events. The garden west of the home remains as Jensen had planted it. The other garden is gone.

The north part of the property is now a Conway business development and the remainder is owned by the Lake Forest Open Lands, which maintains the middlefork savannah and operates the Lockhart Nature Center on the Mellody Farm Nature Preserve, located at 350 N. Waukegan Road in Lake Forest, IL. The Nature Center is housed in the former gatehouse of the Armour estate. The grounds at the Nature Preserve still contain Jensen’s pond and council ring.

405 Sheridan Road, Highland Park, IL

Designed by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw for A.G. Becker and built in 1920, this home has grounds and gardens designed by Jens Jensen. The home has three fireplaces, six bedrooms, seven 1/2 bathrooms, a seven car garage and grounds containing a separate coach house, greenhouse, gazebo, tennis courts, hot tub and pool. The home sits on 17-acres of beach front property facing Lake Michigan. Inside the home, floor to ceiling windows provide views of 500 feet of the private beach.

After falling into disrepair, the estate and grounds were purchased by insurance executive Michael Segal several years ago. The gardens were fully restored and rank as one of the best early 20th century landscapes in the Chicago area. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places thanks to a nomination by Susan Benjamin of Benjamin Historic Certificates.

In June 2004, Segal was convicted of fraud, racketeering and embezzlement, sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $30 million for looting a trust account at his Near North Insurance Brokerage. The U.S. government took control of the property and it was auctioned off in September 2006 to Orren Pickell Designers & Builders of Lake Forest, IL for $17.6 million. (The builder had signed a letter of intent with the City of Highland Park to purchase the property in February 2006 with the intension of building multiple homes on the site.) The builder has stated that it will preserve 66% of the 17-acre lakefront property and give the public access to those areas of the property twice a week.

The Pioneer Press Publication reported on July 12, 2007 that the historic estate was voted and unanimously accepted by the Highland Park City Council as a historic landmark on June 25, 2007 as recommended by the Highland Park Historic Preservation Commission.

(Lake Bluff, IL)

A mansion built by Benjamin Marshall in 1911 for Rand McNally (the map emperor) is for sale.  The 21 acre lakefront property has an asking price of $25 million and contains a 14,000 sq. ft. home with 11 bedrooms, 9.5 bathrooms, a coach house, tennis courts, a pool, a polo field, formal gardens and a winding drive that crosses two limestone bridges and grounds designed by landscape architect Jens Jensen.   The home stands of a 3 acre parcel and has not yet been landmarked.    The Jensen grounds are also not landmarked and could be subdivided, the Jensen grounds bulldozed.

UPDATE!     Lansdowne in Lake Bluff -- the largest private estate on the North Shore -- was sold to Orren Pickell Designers & Builders in July 2007.   The developer plans to build seven lots on the property ranging from 1.5 acres to 3.5 acres.       The 14,500-square-foot mansion, built for the head of Rand McNally, and designed by Benjamin Marshall remains for sale.    The house, reminiscent of the grand era in which it was built, is the last private estate available from the acclaimed architect.


136 Green Bay Road, Lake Bluff, IL

(Lake Bluff, IL)

This historic home was originally located on 130 acres (before it was subdivided). In the late 1800's, the property was owned by Mr. John Mines, an immigrant farmer from Ireland. He sold the estate to rail magnate William V. Kelley. Kelley invested additional funds to form a one-and-a-half-acre man-made lake on the estate's front property, complementing an existing three-acre lake on the back edge of the estate and hired architect Howard van doren Shaw to build the Italian villa-style Manor House and Gatehouse. The property contains landscape designs by Jens Jensen, including a council ring, two limestone bridges and two ponds. The Kelley estate was named Stonebridge in honor of Jensen’s bridge over the lake.

When Kelley died in the early 1930’s, Walter Murphy, an ingenious railroad mechanic who made a fortune as an inventor and manufacturer of railway equipment, purchased Stonebridge. Upon Murphy's passing in 1942, the estate was willed to Northwestern University.

Two years later, the Servite order of the Catholic Church purchased the estate from Northwestern University and by 1945 turned it into their major seminary. The Servites invested two million dollars in the estate and built an addition in 1955 with a kitchen, dining room, classrooms, bedroom and recreational facilities and a chapel.

In the late 1960s, Stonebridge was purchased by Harrison Conference Services.   In the 1970’s, Harrison opened the property as the Midwest's first full-time conference center.   The Harrison Conference Center provides 10,500 square feet of meeting space, 83 guest rooms, dining accommodations, and fitness facilities; such as pools, tennis and basketball courts, and a driving range.

Recently, the Conference Center and a 32-acre parcel of the property was purchased by Stonebridge Lake Bluff, LLC. The proposed Planned Residential Development (PRD) consists of a mix of single-family homes, duplexes, and condominium residences. On June 10, 2005, the Lake Bluff Village Board approved an ordinance designating the Coach House, Manor House, and certain landscaped areas as local historic landmarks. On October 11, 2005, the Village Board approved preliminary plans for the proposed planned residential development, which was submitted by Stonebridge Lake Bluff, LLC.






Do you have historical photographs or blueprints of Jensen's landscaped designs?   


Please email with your information.



Private Estate Gardens in Highland Park, IL





The Artist's Connection . . .


Jensen, a self-taught photographer whose images focused on close-ups, details and special features of native plants and the surrounding habitat, believed that "Arts must be a guide, a leader in the evolution of mankind towards a higher spiritual goal, none of the arts is more able to do this than that of the garden." Jensen had many friends who were artists that lived near his home and studio in Ravinia (a former artists' colony). Influenced by their work, Jensen commissioned sculptures by local artists and placed them in his park designs, including Humboldt Park, the Lincoln Memorial Garden, and the Shakespeare Garden (on the campus of Northwestern University).

Jensen's relationship to the land is similar to that of his photography. Incorporating light, dark and open areas for dramatic effect, Jensen was known for his "long view" perspective. Jensen would place the subject (such as the sculpture or home) at the end of a long, open space, placing trees and shrubs as the "frame" (forming side borders), leaving just a narrow opening when viewed from a distance. Also by using curved pathways and angles, Jensen was able to create unique spatial qualities and contrasts in lighting. He planted trees, shrubs and prairie plants in specific areas of light and dark patterns to create an illusion of space. These open spaces or sun spots surrounded by deep forested dark areas, left the impression that the landscape continued beyond the immediate range of vision, or possibly infinitely.



Arie S. Friedman – Arie Friedman was born in Central Illinois and has lived almost his entire life on the western shore of Lake Michigan. As the descendant of over 100 years of Midwesterners and Chicagoans, Arie uses photography to explore an ever deepening personal relationship with region in which his family continues to make its home.  His professional background is anything but artistic in nature. Graduating with a biology degree from the University of Chicago in 1987, he spent the next seven years flying helicopters as a United States Naval Aviator, including two overseas deployments during the first Gulf War.    In 1994, Arie left the Navy to enter the University of Illinois College of Medicine which led to his current career as a pediatrician in Lincolnshire, Illinois. Over the last few years, he has revived a youthful interest in photography and believes that his technical background readily lends itself to the rapidly changing field of digital photography.   Arie’s current projects focus on the subtle and unique beauty of the trees, prairies, and people of the Central and Upper Midwest. Having grown up within blocks of the original “Clearing”, Arie has found that the landscapes and writings of Jens Jensen in particular provide endless artistic inspirations. It is Arie’s expectation that he will spend the foreseeable future further exploring Jens Jensen’s immense and invaluable natural legacy.

(There are some additional similarities between Arie Friedman and Jensen.    Jensen also served in the military - the German army in Berlin where he was a member of the Imperial Guard.   Jensen completed his duty in 1884 and moved from Denmark to the United States.   Jensen was also a self-taught photographer.)

Pine Cone Abstract by Arie S. Friedman Pine Bark #1 by Arie S. Friedman Sand-Milkweed by Arie S. Friedman

Spruce Bark by Arie S. Friedman Sycamore Bark by Arie S. Friedman Pine Bark #2 by Arie S. Friedman

Lyonia-ligustrina by Arie S. Friedman

Lily Pad by Arie S. Friedman

Solitary Columbine by Arie S. Friedman

Yelena Klairmont – Yelena began her career as an instinctive artist executing public murals and later sought formal training at the American Academy of Art. She also studied at the University of Toronto and DePaul University. Her artwork has been exhibited at College of Lake County, 4Art Gallery, Chicago Art Open, Illinois State Gallery, Gallery 60035, Highland Park, IL, the Highland Park Public Library. Corporate collections include Harris Bank, Highland Park, IL and Highland Park Bank and Trust, Highland Park, IL and Municipal Collections: City of Highland Park, Highland Park, IL.  Her landscapes reflect nature’s variety in a perspective which is close and intimate as a reminder of the surpassing value of each blade of grass, and the unimaginable treasure of the whole. Three years ago, she undertook a project of preserving in oil paint one of the Midwest's most beautiful yet fragile resources- ravines and bluffs of the North Shore. Inspired by the renowned Chicago landscape architect Jens Jensen’s effort to promote nature and his “breathing spaces” concept in an over-urbanized society; her works depict many of Jensen’s architectural structures incorporated in his landscape designs of ravines, parks, and forest preserves. This series of paintings aim to capture the continuously evolving cycle of nature, a cycle that with increased public support for preservation will never have to end. Yelena is a 15-year resident of Highland Park.  

Prints are available of all Yelena's paintings

Jensen's Bridge, Oil on Canvas, 60 x 48"

Yelena Klairmont

(Print Only Available)

Jensen's Bridge #2, Oil on Canvas, 48 x 36"

Yelena Klairmont

Jensen's Walk, Oil on Canvas, 60 x 36"

Yelena Klairmont

Jensen's Council Ring, Oil on Canvas, 60 x 36"

Yelena Klairmont

 Yellow Light, Oil on Canvas, 48 x 36"

Yelena Klairmont

Red Fall, Oil on Canvas, 48 x 36"

Yelena Klairmont




Dean Ave Ravine in Fall, Oil on Canvas, 36 x 24"

Yelena Klairmont

(Print Only Available)

Ravinia Council Ring

Oil on Canvas, 36 x 24"

Yelena Klairmont

Rosewood Beach

Oil on Canvas, 4' x 6'

Yelena Klairmont

Caldwell Pond Abstract #2

Oil on Canvas, 36 x 60"

Yelena Klairmont 

Caldwell Pond Abstract #1

Oil on Canvas, 36 x 48"

Yelena Klairmont

Caldwell Pond , Lincoln Park Zoo  

Oil on Canvas, 22 x 28"

Yelena Klairmont

Caldwell Pond , Lincoln Park Zoo  

Oil on Canvas, 48 x 36"

Yelena Klairmont

(Print Only Available)

Caldwell Pond  #5

Oil on Canvas, 30 x 24"

Yelena Klairmont

Illinois Prairie Flowers, 5 panels

Oil on Canvas

36 x 12" each

Yelena Klairmont

Below are images of the exhibition held at Anatomically Correct Gallery, 1946 First St, Highland Park, IL.

L to R -  Arie S. Friedman, Emma Kowalenko, Highland Park's Mayor Belsky, and Yelena Klairmont at the opening reception     Sept. 16, 2006.

Michael Lieber and his celtic/bluegrass ensemble played during the reception.



 Emma Kowalenko recites her poetry that accompanied Yelena Klairmont's paintings.





Special Thanks to Flavors by Northshore Cookery in Highland Park for donating appetizers for the opening reception.

Pioneer Press

Lake Shore Diversions 9-14-06

Show displays luscious landscapes



Jens Jensen tribute and exhibit, opening reception 7 to 10 p.m. Sept. 16 at Anatomically Correct Gallery, 1946 First St., Highland Park. Free. Exhibit viewing hours are noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays or by appointment through Oct. 27.

Red. Yellow. Purple. Orange. All the brilliant colors of autumn unite several North Shore artists and the famous, but long dead, landscape architect Jens Jensen. Residents can view some treasured Jensen landscapes in various media and tour some that have survived the many changes on the North Shore over the last century.

The Art of the Landscape, a retrospective on landscape architect Jens Jensen, begins with a free reception from 7 to 10 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Anatomically Correct Gallery, 1946 First St., Highland Park.

Photographs by Jensen will be surrounded by work of North Shore residents such as photographs by Arie S. Friedman, paintings by Yelena Klairmont and historical documentation on Jensen by preservationist Elliott Miller.

The reception also will feature a poetry reading by Highland Park resident Emma Kowalenko, who has composed poems based on Klairmont's paintings of Jensen landscapes. In honor of the Prairie Club, a walking tour group that Jensen lead, the gallery will distribute maps to visitors who wish to conduct their own visits to the Jensen areas in Highland Park and Ravinia.

Natural setting

The Rosewood Bridge has universal appeal and appears in photographs by Friedman, paintings by Klairmont and photographs by Jensen himself by preservationist Miller. This bridge is located in Rosewood Park at the east end of Roger Williams Avenue in Highland Park.

Jensen realized that the native landscape was quickly disappearing and set out to preserve it.  He was way ahead of his time as a preservationist.

Jensen was a driving force in establishing the Illinois state parks system, the Cook County Forest Preserve District, the Indiana Dunes State Park and the National Lakeshore.

Inspiration to many

Artist Klairmont's art is inspired by Jensen's work and words. Quoting from a Jensen book, "Siftings," she acknowledged his words expressed her perspective so well that she quoted him:

"Arts must be a guide, a leader in the evolution of mankind towards a higher spiritual goal, none of the arts is more able to do this than that of the garden. It is a living expression of peace and happiness and therefore a great influence in the forming of a people."

Jensen determined that if people could not get to nature, he would bring it to them, she said.

Jensen, a Danish immigrant and landscape architect, set out to preserve the native landscape on the North Shore during the early 20th century. North Shore residents from Lake Forest, Highland Park and Ravinia commissioned Jensen to create his American Garden on their private estates.

Further reading:
Julia S. Bachrach. The City in a Garden: A Photographic History of Chicago Parks. University of Chicago Press, 2001.
Charles A. Birnbaum. Pioneers of American Landscape Architecture. McGraw-Hill, 2000.
Leonard K. Eaton. Landscape Artist in America: The Life and Work of Jens Jensen. University of Chicago Press, 1964.
Robert E. Grese. Jens Jensen: Maker of Natural Parks and Gardens. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.
Wilhelm Miller, Introduction by Chrisopher Vernon. The Prairie Spirit of Landscape Gardening. University of Massachusetts Press, 2002.

Founded in 1991, Anatomically Correct is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to showcasing works by artists in alternative spaces in a combined effort to educate, diversify, and promote community awareness of the visual and performing arts.   

All artwork available for purchase.

For more information, please contact:

Anatomically Correct