Carl C. Brenner

Artist Biography

American realist, romanticist and tonalist, specializing in landscapes of Kentucky

By Kate Amundsen

A German-born, American-raised landscape painter, recognized only after his arrival to the United States, Brenner became a beloved painter of the American South.

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


I. Biography

Carl Christian Brenner was born in 1838 in Lauterecken, Germany in Bavaria. A brilliant student in his first years of school, he was recommended by his teacher to King Ludwig I for entry into the prestigious Munich Art Academy, and was accepted with glowing praise from the King. Unfortunately, his father and brothers pressured him to stay in the family business of glazing, and he never attended this influential art school. After his immigration to the United States in 1853, he found jobs related to his creative passion, such as sign painting. George P. Doom, an influential businessman and art patron, discovered Brenner not long after his arrival in the States. Doom saw some of Brenner’s sketches of the American south and convinced him that he had to devote his life to landscape painting; Brenner soon enrolled in formal painting classes. In 1864 he was married to Anna Glass, with whom he had six children.[1]

Though Brenner’s subject matter varied, he was most well-known for his landscapes. Some of his favorite subjects were local birch trees. His landscapes usually included detailed views of the Cumberland Mountains and the rivers, forests, trees and parks of his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Brenner painted using traditional easel techniques, but he also occasionally created murals and mosaics, and experimented with printmaking and graphic art. While many of the locations he painted were in Kentucky, he also visited the Southern wetlands and highlands. In addition, he traveled to the western US to paint scenes from the plain states, Colorado, California, Washington, and Oregon.[2] Brenner occasionally ventured outside of his preferred genre of landscape to compose grand historical events, in particular themes related to the Civil War, adding to his popularity as an American painter.

Brenner was considered a realist by most art critics, who believed that painting from reality should include as little interpretation or influence as possible. Yet, he was also recognized as a tonalist because of his attention to shadow and mood and special attention to the time of day in which he was painting. Romanticism also played a large role in his several of his works.[3]

II. Chronology

1838 Born in Lauterecken, Bavaria, Germany.
1853 Emigrated to the United States.
1864 Married Anna Glass.
1887 Joined the National Academy of Design.
1888 Died in Louisville, Kentucky.

III. Collections

Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Greenville County Museum of Art, SC
Morris Museum of Art, GA
The Filson Historical Society, Inc., KY
The Speed Art Museum, KY

IV. Exhibitions

1874 Louisville Industrial Exposition, Louisville, KY
1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, PA
1877–1886 Annual exhibitions of the National Academy of Design, NY
1879 Exhibited Glimpse from Wildcat Mountain at the Louisville Industrial Exposition, Louisville, KY
1881–1885 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, PA
2008 Owensboro Museum of Fine Art, Owensboro, KY

V. Memberships

Academy of Fine Arts, Munich
Alliance of Figurative Artists
American Artists Professional League
Munich Academy of Fine Arts Royal Academy
National Arts Club
The American Art Union
The National Academy of Design (active 1877–1886)

V. Notes

1. Peter Hastings Halk, Who was Who in American Art: 1564-1975 (New York: Marquis Who’s Who, 2011), 853.
2. Randolph Delehanty, Art in the American South Works from the Ogden Collection (Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 1996), 282–4.
3. William H. Gerdts, Art Across America: The South, Near Midwest, vol. II (New York: Abbeville Press, 1990), 392–5.

VII. Suggested Resources

1. Armstrong, J.M. The Biographical Encyclopedia of Kentucky of the Dead and Living Men of the Nineteenth Century. Louisiana: Black Swan Books, 1878.
2. Dawdy, Doris. Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary (3 volumes). Chicago: Sage Books, 1985.
3. Delehanty, Randolph. Art in the American South Works from the Ogden Collection. Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 1996.
4. Gerdts, William H. Art Across America: The South, Near Midwest (Volume Two). New York: Abbeville Press, 1990.
5. Falk, Peter Hastings. Who was who in American Art: 1564-1975. New York: Marquis Who’s Who, , 2011.
6. Jones, Arthur F. and Bruce Weber. The Kentucky Painter from the Frontier Era to the Great War. Louisville, Kentucky: University of Kentucky Art Museum, 1971.

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