Johann Hermann Carmiencke (1810–1867)

Hudson River School Painter, Engraver, and Etcher Known for his Mastery of Soft Light and Color

By Emily Handlin

Although less well known today than many of his contemporaries, Carmiencke deserves recognition as a consummate draftsman and painter, artist of the Hudson River School, and founding member of the Brooklyn Academy of Design.

I. Biography
II. Chronology
III. Collections
IV. Exhibitions
V. Memberships
VI. Notes
VII. Suggested Resources

I. Biography

Born in Hamburg, Germany, Johann Hermann Carmienecke arrived in Dresden in 1831 to study with the Norwegian-born landscape painter Johan Christian Dahl. Perhaps at the urging of Dahl, who had close connections to Denmark’s artistic community, Carmiencke left Dresden in 1834 to continue his education at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen.[1] The decision to leave Germany would prove to have a profound effect on Carmiencke’s life and career. He was first introduced to Danish landscape painting by Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, the great Danish painter and Carmiencke’s teacher at the Academy.[2] In 1846, Carmiencke was appointed court painter to King Christian VIII of Denmark. However, this honor coincided with the outbreak of the First Schlewswig War between Germany and Denmark. Alarmed by the mounting anti-German sentiment in his adopted country, Carmiencke emigrated from Denmark to the United States in 1851.[3]

After arriving in New York, Carmiencke settled in Brooklyn and soon became an active member of the Artists’ Fund Society of New York and the Brooklyn Art Association. He also traveled extensively throughout New York State, making preparatory sketches in the Catskill and Adirondack mountains. From these studies, he composed closely-observed landscapes that, in their precise draftsmanship and deft handling of light and color, reflect his European academic training.[4] As the art historian Theodore E. Stebbins has noted, the precision of Carmiencke’s drawing rivals that of the Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church.[5] In 1866, Carmiencke, along with twenty-three other artists, left the Brooklyn Art association to establish the Brooklyn Academy of Design. Carmiencke died in 1867.[6]

II. Chronology

1810 Born in Hamburg, Germany
1831 Moved to Dresden to study with Johan Christian Dahl
1834 Moved to Copenhagen to continue his artistic education at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts
183(?) Traveled back to Germany to study in Leipzig
1838 Returned to Denmark and became a Danish citizen.
1845 Spent a year in Italy after traveling throughout Sweden, Germany, and Austria
1846 Appointed court painter to King Christian VIII of Denmark
1851 Immigrated to the United States and settled in Brooklyn
1855 Hired by William Kitchell to create etchings documenting the economic geology of New Jersey. These etchings were published in The Second Annual Report on the Geological Survey of the State of New Jersey for the Year 1855.
1866 Left the Brooklyn Art Association, and, along with twenty-three other artists, founded the Brooklyn Academy of Design.
1867 Died in Brooklyn

III. Collections

Brooklyn Museum, NY
Harvard University Art Museums, MA
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark
Orlando Museum of Art, FL
Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, NY
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
Yale University Art Gallery, CT

IV. Exhibitions

1853, 1855, 1857–59, 1865–66 National Academy of Design
1855, 1867 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
1859–68 Brooklyn Art Association
1861–62 Boston Athenæum
1866 Utica Art Association
1876 Maryland Historical Society
1973 Smithsonian American Art Museum
1997 Westmoreland Museum of American Art
2005 The Schwartz Gallery

V. Memberships

Artists’ Fund Society of New York
Brooklyn Academy of Design
Brooklyn Art Association
Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts

VI. Notes

1. Mary E. Murray and Paul D. Schweizer, Life Lines: American Master Drawings, 1788–1962 (New York: Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, 1994), 53.
2. Catherine Johnston, et al., Baltic Light: Early Open-Air Painting in Denmark and North Germany (New Haven and London: Yale University Press in Association with the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1999), 42.
3. Robert Wilson Torchia, New Jersey Remembered: Schwartz Gallery 75th Anniversary Catalogue (Philadelphia: Schwartz Gallery, 2005), 15.
4. Ibid.
5. Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., American Master Drawings and Watercolors: A History of Works on Paper from Colonial Times to the Present (New York: Harper and Row, 1976), 130.
6. Torchia, 15.

VII. Suggested Resources

Johnson, Carol Siri. “The Evolution of Illustrated Texts and Their Effect on Science: Examples from Early American State Geological Reports,” Leonardo 41 (February, 2008): 120–7.
Johnston, Catherine, et al. Baltic Light: Early Open-Air Painting in Denmark and North Germany. New Haven and London: Yale University Press in Association with the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1999.
Murray, Mary E. and Schweizer, Paul D. Life Lines: American Master Drawings, 1788–1962. New York: Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, 1994.
Stebbins, Theodore E. Jr. American Master Drawings and Watercolors: A History of Works on Paper from Colonial Times to the Present. New York: Harper and Row, 1976.
Torchia, Robert Wilson. New Jersey Remembered: Schwartz Gallery 75th Anniversary Catalogue. Philadelphia: Schwartz Gallery, 2005.

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