Picturing the Prairie

May 1 - September 12, 2021

Chicago Botanic Garden

Glencoe,, Illinois

Plan Your Visit | The Garden's Exhibit Page

Note: Non-member visitors must preregister for parking. No registration required if arriving by bike on the North Branch Trail.

Painting of Foley Sand Prairie

Since 2013, with paint brush and camera in hand, I’ve had the pleasure of exploring tallgrass prairie remnants and restorations across Illinois. Beginning with preserves in the Chicago area, I’ve made over a dozen trips from my home in Athens, Georgia, to explore the state’s prairie ecosystems – native grasslands being one of my favorite subjects. I’ve found it both challenging and rewarding to find the far-flung preserves that hold most of the .01% remaining of Illinois’ original prairie. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the Prairie State and have become very fond of its landscapes and the people I’ve met along the way. I’ve also found that Illinois, the state my mother grew up in, is a surprisingly wonderful destination for nature as well as culture.

Visiting and painting prairies from the Wisconsin border to the southern end of the state has been a truly fulfilling experience, as has revisiting them in the studio on larger canvases. I have explored many types of prairies, from wet black-soil prairies to dry hill prairies, and correspondingly, many variations in topography, species composition, and enclosure by trees.

This exhibit assembles the most compelling scenes from my explorations, moments where I was awed by the natural beauty before me and fascinated by the ecology and history of the place. The paintings are loosely arranged around the themes that have most captivated me: flora, wide-open skies, seasons, agents of biodiversity, wetlands, presettlement history, and woodlands.

Throughout this project I’ve been guided by several remarkable prairie conservationists. I am grateful to them and those who came before them for all they’ve done to bring this important grassland ecosystem back to life, not only making it possible for me to picture the prairie, but also ensuring that all of us can reconnect with this uniquely beautiful ecosystem. These paintings celebrate their efforts while inviting all who enjoy nature’s beauty to join in, to set foot in a nearby preserve where the state, county, or a non-profit has restored the prairie. I think visitors to these places will find, as I have, that the glorious diversity of plants and animals that make up one of the most storied ecosystems in North America is worthy of our attention.


Presented through a partnership of the Chicago Botanic Garden, The Field Musuem, The Forest Preserves of Cook County, The Nature Conservancy, and Openlands.

sponsors logos


Events:

Media:

Buy the exhibit book: Picturing the Prairie: A Vision of Restoration

Image of book cover Picturing the Prairie by Philip Juras


Works in the Exhibition (organized by size):

Foley Sand Prairie

Expand Details +

Lee County, Illinois
2019

Oil on canvas 36 x 60 in. (91.4 x 152.4 cm)
Available

Winter Evening

Expand Details +

Sand Prairie-Scrub Oak Nature Preserve, Mason County, Illinois
2019

Oil on canvas 36 x 60 in. (91.4 x 152.4 cm)
Available

Night Fire on the Grand Prairie of Illinois c. 1491

Expand Details +

2019

Oil on canvas 36 x 60 in. (91.4 x 152.4 cm)
Private collection

Late Afternoon on the Grand Prairie of Illinois c. 1491

Expand Details +

2019

Oil on canvas 36 x 60 in. (91.4 x 152.4 cm)
Private collection

Sunset

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
2019

Oil on canvas 36 x 54 in. (91.4 x 137.2 cm)
Available

Sunrise

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
2019

Oil on canvas 36 x 54 in. (91.4 x 137.2 cm)
Available

Galloping Hill Prairie

Expand Details +

Cook County, Illinois
2019

Oil on canvas 36 x 48 in. (91.4 x 121.9 cm)
Private collection

Chiwaukee Prairie

Expand Details +

Kenosha County, Wisconsin
2019

Oil on canvas 36 x 48 in. (91.4 x 121.9 cm)
Private collection

Beaver Pond

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
2019

Oil on canvas 30 x 54 in. (76.2 x 137.2 cm)
Private collection

Fults Hill Prairie

Expand Details +

Monroe County, Illinois
2019

Oil on canvas 30 x 48 in. (76.2 x 121.9 cm)
Available

Pembroke Savanna

Expand Details +

Kankakee County, Illinois
2019

Oil on canvas 30 x 48 in. (76.2 x 121.9 cm)
Private collection

Shoe Factory Road Woods

Expand Details +

Cook County, Illinois
2020

Oil on canvas 30 x 42 in. (76.2 x 106.7 cm)
Private collection

Flint Creek Savanna

Expand Details +

Lake County, Illinois
2020

Oil on canvas 24 x 40 in. (61 x 101.6 cm)
Private collection

Cave Creek Glade Preserve

Expand Details +

Johnson County, Illinois
2020

Oil on canvas 24 x 36 in. (61 x 91.4 cm)
Private collection

Spring Creek Valley c. 1833

Expand Details +

Spring Lake Preserve, Cook County, Illinois
2020

Oil on canvas 24 x 36 in. (61 x 91.4 cm)
Private collection

Inspired by Poplar Creek Prairie (Late July)

Expand Details +

Cook County, Illinois
December 2013

Oil on canvas 24 x 36 in. (61 x 91.4 cm)
Private collection

Doug’s Knob, May

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
May 11, 2019 (Finished 2019)

Oil on canvas 18 x 26 in. (45.7 x 66 cm)
Available

Doug’s Knob, December

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
December 17, 2018 (Finished 2019)

Oil on canvas 18 x 26 in. (45.7 x 66 cm)
Available

Doug’s Knob, June

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
June 13, 2018

Oil on canvas 18 x 26 in. (45.7 x 66 cm)
Private collection

Doug’s Knob, October

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
October 20, 2017

Oil on canvas 18 x 26 in. (45.7 x 66 cm)
Available

The Woods

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
October 21, 2017

Oil on canvas 18 x 26 in. (45.7 x 66 cm)
Private collection

Doug’s Knob, July

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
July 28, 2015

Oil on canvas 18 x 26 in. (45.7 x 66 cm)
Private collection

Bur Oak

Expand Details +

Flint Creek Savanna, Lake County, Illinois
July 11, 2017

OIl on canvas 10 x 16 in. (25.4 x 40.6 cm)
Private collection

Rest Area

Expand Details +

Kankakee Sands Preserve, Indiana
May 14, 2019

Oil on canvas 8 x 16 in. (20.3 x 40.6 cm)
Private collection

Oak Island

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
June 12, 2018

Oil on canvas 8 x 16 in. (20.3 x 40.6 cm)
Private collection

Prospect Cemetery Prairie

Expand Details +

Ford County, Illinois
August 17, 2019

Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Available

Loda Cemetery Prairie

Expand Details +

Iroquois County, Illinois
August 17, 2019

Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Available

Combustion

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
March 26, 2019

Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Private collection

Receding Flame Front

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
March 26, 2019

Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Private collection

Tawny Slopes

Expand Details +

Revis Hill Prairie, Mason County, Illinois
May 9, 2019

Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Available

Spring Lake Wetland

Expand Details +

Cook County, Illinois
May 13, 2019

Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Available

Flame Front Departing

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
March 23, 2019

Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Available

Smoke Columns

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
March 25, 2019

Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Available

Fall Burn 1

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
November 15, 2018

Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Available

Winter Burn 1

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
December 18, 2018

Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Available

Building Black

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
March 25, 2019

Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Available

Backing Uphill

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
March 23, 2019

Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Available

Winter Burn 2

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
December 18, 2018

Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Private collection

Fall Burn 2

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
November 15, 2018

Oil on canvas 9 x 11 in. (22.9 x 27.9 cm)
Private collection

Fall Burn 3

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
November 15, 2018

Oil on canvas 9 x 11 in. (22.9 x 27.9 cm)
Available

Flame Front Arriving

Expand Details +

Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois
March 23, 2019

Oil on canvas 9 x 11 in. (22.9 x 27.9 cm)
Available

Wet Prairie

Expand Details +

Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area, Grundy County, Illinois
June 14, 2018

Oil on canvas 9 x 11 in. (22.9 x 27.9 cm)
Private collection

Lockport Prairie

Expand Details +

Will County, Illinois
June 15, 2018

Oil on canvas 9 x 11 in. (22.9 x 27.9 cm)
Private collection

Gensburg-Markham Prairie

Expand Details +

Cook County, Illinois
July 10, 2017

Oil on canvas 9 x 11 in. (22.9 x 27.9 cm)
Private collection

Presettlement Marsh Study

Expand Details +

Fox River, Illinois
2020

Oil on canvas 8 x 12 in. (20.3 x 30.5 cm)
Private collection

Somme Prairie Grove

Expand Details +

Cook County, Illinois
August 19, 2019

Oil on canvas 8 x 12 in. (20.3 x 30.5 cm)
Private collection

Color Study

Expand Details +

Foley Sand Prairie, Lee County , Illinois
June 14, 2018

Oil on canvas 8 x 11 in. (20.3 x 27.9 cm)
Available

photo of exhibit by robin carlson

Picturing the Prairie, Joutras Gallery, Regenstein Center, Chicago Botanic Garden, 2021. Photo by Robin Carlson.