Artist Biography

Hermann Herzog

(1831 - 1932)

Table of Contents

    A nineteenth-century German-American landscape painter known for his poetic, atmospheric views and majestic mountain scenes.

    By Chelsea DeLay

    Born in 1831 in Bremen, Germany, Hermann Herzog enrolled in the Düsseldorf Academy when he was seventeen years old. Herzog studied under landscape artist Hans Gude, who prompted the young artist to take a sketching trip to Norway in 1855.[1] The natural splendor of the mountains and terrain had a profound impact on Herzog—he was drawn to the sublime and untamed elements of the wilderness, which became a significant driving force behind his decision to pursue landscape painting. His development as an artist was also encouraged by another instructor, Andreas Achenbach, whose influence can be seen in Herzog’s ominous mountain views.[2] Herzog’s explorative spirit led him on additional trips to Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, the Bavarian Tyrol and Holland, where he was able to completely focus on producing landscape scenes.[3] The level of skill seen in the work Herzog executed on these ventures left a wake of impressed royal clients that included Queen Victoria, the Queen of Hanover, Emperor Alexander of Russia, and the Grand Duke of Oldenberg.

    Herzog emigrated to America during his late twenties, drawn to the United States for two specific reasons. First, it became worrisome to the artist when his home state of Bremen joined the Northern German Confederation in 1867; his concern for the well-being of his wife and son Herman, Jr., was apparent when he was quoted saying, “I’d be damned if I would live and bring my children up under Prussian rule.”[4] Secondly, the sheer vastness of the American landscape held an appeal that Herzog could not ignore—the unlimited amount of natural scenery was irresistible. When the Herzog family arrived to America in the 1860s, they stayed briefly in New Jersey before settling permanently in West Philadelphia.

    Empowered by his active lifestyle, Herzog traveled extensively during his first years painting in the United States, often biking or hiking to remote areas near Lake George, Niagara Falls, Chesapeake Bay, and Maine. Herzog’s roster of royal clientele was quite helpful as the artist began to establish his career in America, and when combined with the wide variety of coastal scenes, pastoral landscapes, and atmospheric scenes of American landmarks, he quickly rose to fame as a leading landscape artist. An excerpt from The Philadelphia Press heralded Herzog’s ability as master painter of the American landscape:
    “He possesses a power of selection that is equivalent to creation, and his works, painted out of doors, have the unity of purely ideal compositions…His faculty of choosing the most effective illumination, even the most favorable season and time of day, assisted by the rapidity of execution which enables him to seize and fetter the most transient phenomena of light and shade—of clouds that pass and of windswept water—amount to genius and make his pictures unique among landscapes.”[5]

    After living and working in America for over fifteen years, Herzog became a naturalized citizen of the United States on September 4, 1876.[6] That same year, one of his paintings entitled Sentinel Rock, Yosemite was awarded a prize at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. During the 1880s, Herzog’s attraction to the sublime nature of the American wilderness matured into an understanding of how weather conditions induced specific effects on the landscape: A clear, sunny day would inspire a picturesque, harmonious landscape, while rain or snow would draw Herzog’s attention to the craggy peaks and threatening cliffs where no human would dare to venture.

    Just before the turn of the century, Herzog’s works adopted a more romantic approach, and many of his later scenes were rendered with an expressive brushstroke bearing a softer, tonalist influence. During the years between 1885 and 1910, Herzog made many trips to visit his son in Gainesville, Florida, where he produced over two-hundred Floridian landscapes. Herzog also made regular summer visits to North Haven Island in Penobscot Bay, where his younger son Lewis lived with his family; the last recorded visit Herzog made to North Haven Island was in 1927, when he was 96 years old.

    Herzog developed an avid interest in photography in 1910, and went so far as to build a darkroom in his house; he was one of the many American landscape painters who began to use photographs as a preparatory aid. Just before Herzog passed away in 1932, Ferargil Galleries held a joint exhibition of his work and works by his younger son, Lewis. Soon after his arrival to the United States, Herzog had made several wise investments and also purchased a share in the Pennsylvania Railroad; he was consequently financially secure later in life, which may have led to a certain lack of motivation to sell his work during his later years. A majority of Herzog’s paintings remained in his family’s personal collection until 1971, when one of his grandsons opted to sell a significant amount of his work. Herzog’s landscapes are found in many prominent European and American art collections, including prestigious institutions such as The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, Cincinnati Art Museum, Dallas Museum of Art, The Heckscher Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, National Museum of Wildlife Art, Oakland Museum of California and the White House.

    II. Chronology

    • 1848 Enrolls in the Düsseldorf Academy at the age of seventeen
    • 1855 Encouraged by professor Hans Gude to travel to Norway; this trip profoundly impacts Herzog’s career as a landscape painter
    • 1865 Son John Herbert Robert Emil Herzog is born
    • 1867 Decides to move to the United States after Bremen joins the Northern German Confederation
    • 1868 Son Lewis Edward Herzog is born
    • 1871 Takes sketching trip throughout the Northeast; visits the Delaware River, Atlantic City, Lake George, the Hudson River, Niagara Falls, and Valleyhouse, New Hampshire
    • 1873–4 Travels to the West on a sketching trip; visits Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, California and the Coronado Islands off Mexico
    • 1876 Becomes a naturalized citizen of the United States on September 4
    • Exhibits Sentinel Rock, Yosemite and Norwegian Waterfall in Hollingdal at the International Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia
    • Meets artist George Cope
    • 1882 Exhibits at the National Academy of Design
    • 1895–1910 Frequently visits his son Herman, Jr., in Gainesville, Florida
    • 1904–1927 Visits son Lewis and his wife Fanny at their Crabtree Point home on North Haven Island in Penobscot Bay
    • 1910 Develops an avid interest in photography
    • 1932 Joint exhibition with his son Lewis at Ferargil Galleries
    • Passes away in Philadelphia at the age of 101

    III. Collections

    • The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, Winter Park, Florida
    • Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio
    • The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville, Florida
    • Dallas Museum of Art, Texas
    • The Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, New York
    • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
    • National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
    • National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, Wyoming
    • Oakland Museum of California, California
    • Please Touch Museum, Memorial Hall, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    • Reading Public Museum, Pennsylvania
    • Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Loretto, Pennsylvania
    • University of Michigan Museum of Art, Michigan
    • The White House, Washington, D.C.

    IV. Exhibitions

    • 1863 Paris Salon, France; prize
    • 1863–69 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Pennsylvania
    • 1869, 1872 Brooklyn Art Association, New York
    • 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, Pennsylvania; prize
    • 1882 National Academy of Design, New York, New York
    • 1931 Ferargil Gallery, New York, New York; joint exhibition with son Lewis
    • 1992 Brandywine River Museum, CHadds Ford, Pennsylvania
    • Tampa Museum of Art, Florida
    • 1993 Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, Florida

    V. Notes

    1. Herman Herzog, 1831–1932 (New York: Chapellier Galleries, 1971), np.
    2. Herzog, 1832–1932 (Baltimore, MD: Phoenix-Chase Galleries, Inc., 1972), 3.
    3. Ibid.
    4. Herman Herzog, 1831–1932, np.
    5. Ibid.
    6. Donald S. Lewis, Jr., American Paintings of Herman Herzog, (Chadds Ford, PA: Brandywine River Museum, 1992), 15.

    VI. Suggested Resources

    • Falk, Peter H. Who Was Who in American Art. Madison, Connecticut: Sound View Press, 1999.
    • Lewis, Donald S. Jr. American Paintings of Herman Herzog. Chadds Ford, PA: Brandywine River Museum, 1992.
    • Elliot, Susan Sipple and Frederick Baekeland, “An American Collection, 1833–1935,” American Art Review, June 1999.

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