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German Immigrant Painters 4

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American Primitives

Since in many areas of the United States the population remained for a long time thinly distributed and people lived in great isolation, a peculiar painting style evolved which is usually called American Primitive art.  Untutored, yet gifted individuals who worked in remote settlements or small rural communities produced a rich treasure of pictures, especially between the 1830's and 1850's.  These works express in a naively drawn or painted manner the deeply ingrained human urge to decorate and to leave a pictorial record for posterity.

Most of these American amateur artists remained anonymous, but it has been clearly established that many of them had come from Germany.  Of the small number known by name, Frederick Kemmelmeyer (active 1788 -1805) is know for his several versions of Washington Reviewing the Western Army at Fort Cumberland, Md., an event he apparently observed in 1795.

Jürgen Frederick Huge (1809-1878) who worked in Bridgeport, Connecticut as a grocer and artist, painted from 1838 until the end of his life a number of large watercolor marines, stylized in delightful rhythmical patterns.

Jacob Maentel (1763-1863) who was possibly educated as a medical doctor, is noted for the meticulously painted portraits which he made of his neighbors in the Indiana settlement of New Harmony.  Paul Seifert (1840-1921) is famous for his charming farm scenes that he painted with loving definition of every detail.  These men's paintings demonstrated a great intuition for the use of color and decorative patterns, a common characteristic of all good American Primitives.  Some art historians would like to identify the essential element of American painting with these "Primitives".  Indeed, nowhere else in American painting can one find a more forthright approach and a more homogeneous artistic integration of talents coming from many ethnic backgrounds.

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