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 Henry Reuterdahl  (1871 - 1925)

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Lived/Active: New York/Illinois/District Of Columbia / Sweden      Known for: marine and townscape painting, newspaper illustration, mural

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Ad Code: 3
Henry Reuterdahl
from Auction House Records.
A fishing vessel in choppy waters, Katwijk
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A Lieutenant in the United States Navy, Henry Reuterdahl, 1871-1925, was best known for his paintings of Navy warships and recruiting posters for World War I, though he did exhibit in the 1913 Armory Show*, in New York City.  He also painted landscapes in a kind of tapestry-like, pointillist*, impasto* style.  He taught in New York City before the turn of the century.

While the other armed services during World War I had a kind of clearing house for selecting posters for the War effort, the Navy had its own poster bureau, directed by Henry Reuterdahl.  Called "Operation Palette," it was the first navy-sponsored art program.

The preface of the 1919 edition of Jane's Fighting Ships (Reuterdahl was an editor for Janes), expresses its thanks, "for his valuable services.  Lieut. Henry Reuterdahl, U.S. N. R. F., the distinguished naval artist and critic.  It is largely through his kind assistance that we are able to publish so many new and up-to-date illustrations of U.S. Warships."

In 1907, Reuterdahl, was ordered away from the fleet because of negative comments to the press.  He was assigned to the crew of the Culgoa, a refrigerated supply ship accompanying the Atlantic Battleship Fleet (sixteen battleships) showing the American flag on the "Great White Fleet Cruise" in that year.

Reuterdahl got into trouble when he brashly convinced Admiral William S. Sims, with whom he was friendly, to prepare an article in 1907 outlining the faults of the Navy (Sims was frustrated because his push for larger battleships wasn't getting anywhere).  Reuterdahl's name appeared on the article, which claimed, among other things, that officers were promoted by seniority rather than by merit, that the bureau system was inefficient, and that major faults existed in the designs of new warships.

Reuterdahl's painting, Great White Fleet at Sea, the Second Squadron, December 1907, depicts Rear Admiral Charles M. Thomas on board the USS Minnesota (Battleship # 22) during the Atlantic Fleet's cruise around the World.  The artist inscribed the work to Rear Admiral Thomas (in an attempt to redress his outspoken criticisms?).  It is now in the Navy Art Collection, Washington, D. C.

Reuterdahl's painting, The Captain's Christmas Dinner, depicting a ship's captain attempting to drink a cup of coffee on deck in rough seas, was published by P. F. Collier and Son, in 1908, in a large-format book, Thirty Favorite Paintings by Leading American Artists.

In 1911, Henry Reuterdahl wrote an article for The Craftsman, "Winslow Homer, American Painter: An Appreciation from a Sea-Going Viewpoint." Reuterdahl's wash drawing, c. 1901, whose subject was "The rest of the crew, with a shout, hastened to join the leaders," was published in December 1901 in Scribner's magazine, illustrating "The Making of a Pilot" by Albert White Vorse.  The original is now in the Cabinet of American Illustration, of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, in Washington, D.C.

The collection of the Library of Congress holds Reuterdahl's World War I recruiting poster, The Navy Put 'Em Across, depicting the Navy's role in transporting American troops to the War in Europe; as well as three other World War I posters from 1917 and 1918.

Henry Reuterdahl's name is listed as an index "search term" in the collection of the Western Historical Manuscript Collection, in Columbia, Missouri.

The work of Henry Reuterdahl was part of an exhibition in 1999 of fifty water colors, drawings and prints at the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida, commemorating the centennial exhbition of the Spanish American War: "A Splendid Little War" The Spanish-American War, 1898: The Artists' Perspective." The exhibition included artists such as Howard Chandler Christy, William Glackens and Thure de Thulstrup.


* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Henry Reuterdahl   (1870 - 1925)

Henry Reuterdahl, born in Malmo, Sweden, studied in Andreas Brolin's theatrical painting studio in 1887 in Stockholm along with Arvid Nyholm.  Hired by the Swedish newspaper, Svea, he traveled to Chicago to do illustrations for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. 

He worked with August Frazen and Hugo von Hofsten on The Chicago Graphic, then settled in New York in 1896 to illustrate for Harper's Weekly, among other publications. 

During World War I he designed recruitment posters and painted naval battle scenes for the Department of the Navy. 

His work is in the collection of the National Museum of American Art, the United States Naval Academy, Riksforeningen Sverigekontakt, and Smalandsmuseum. 

Submitted by Edward P. Bentley, Art Researcher, East Lansing, Michigan

Mary Towley Swanson,  Tangled Web: Swedish Immigrant Artists' Patronage Systems, 1880-1940.  2004.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Henry Reuterdahl is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
New York Armory Show of 1913
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915

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