Illinois College unveiled two historic portraits in Tanner Hall over Commencement Weekend. The first is of Marion Lucy Tanner, wife of third Illinois College President Edward Tanner, and the second is Axel Steuer’s presidential portrait.
The Tanner painting solves a longtime mystery of whose portrait had occupied an empty space between other portraits on the grand stairway wall in Tanner Hall. For over 10 years, the space remained empty and unadorned, and no one seemed to know whose picture had earlier hung there. Loreli Steuer, wife of President Steuer, kept asking questions about whose portrait belonged there, and finally someone offered the guess that it was one of Marion Lucy Tanner. The question remained, however, what happened to the portrait and did it still exist?
More time passed and Steuer kept asking questions about its whereabouts until one of the former art professors remembered seeing a woman’s portrait stashed away in the
basement storage room of McGaw Hall.
“I went exploring with Professor Bruce McCoy, and we discovered behind many old pictures a stunning oil painting identified as Marion Tanner, the third first lady of the college,” Steuer said. “The picture was dirty and damaged, but not beyond repair. I resolved that the painting should be restored and rehung in its rightful place in Tanner Hall.”
She then enlisted the assistance of Professor Jeff Garland who teaches painting at the college and who helped locate an antique portrait restorer in Chicago. The portrait of Tanner was newly framed and restored, and was unveiled at a small ceremony in Tanner on May 11.
The restoration is a gift of Steuer who commented, “Although the Tanners served as a presidential couple over 130 years ago, Axel and I share a few things in common with them. As an example, each president served for a term of 10 years, and both couples were married on June 27. Most importantly, it is a beautiful portrait of a beautiful first lady of Illinois College that deserves to be gracing Tanner’s imposing marble stairway again.”
The second painting that was unveiled on Saturday is of Axel Steuer whose presidential portrait will join the gallery of 12 other Illinois College presidents in Tanner Hall’s Trustee Meeting Room. It, too, was unveiled with Illinois College Trustees in attendance for the traditional ceremony marking the end of President Steuer’s 10-year term. He will retire on May 31.