Otto Henry Bacher
(1856 - 1909)
Otto Henry Bacher was active/lived in New York, Ohio / Italy. Otto Bacher is known for etching, landscape, wildlife and figure painting.
Otto Henry Bacher
Biography from the Archives of askART
Otto Henry Bacher was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to a family of German
descent. He first studied art at the age of sixteen with local
genre trompe l'oeil still-life artist, DeScott Evans. Although he
studied with Evans for less than one year, Bacher's early work,
comprised mainly of still lifes, betrays Evans's influence.
Biography from the Archives of askART
After a short period in Philadelphia, where he studied at the
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Bacher returned to Cleveland and
met Willis Seaver Adams, an artist from Springfield, Massachusetts, who
had just recently arrived upon the Cleveland art scene. Soon the
two artists were rooming together. Adams was instrumental in the
founding of the Cleveland Art Club, as well as the establishment of the
Cleveland Academy of the Fine Arts, to the board of which Adams had
Bacher appointed. Also during this time, Bacher began to learn
the process of etching from local etcher and landscape painter Sion
In 1878, Bacher and Adams left for Europe.
After stopping briefly in Scotland, Bacher went on to Munich, where he
enrolled at the Royal Academy. He quickly tired of the rigors of
the Academy, and soon he was studying with Cincinnati artist Frank
Duveneck, the prime American exponent of the Munich School. In
1879, Bacher made a trip to Florence with Duveneck as one of the
celebrated "Duveneck Boys." Early the following year, the group
proceeded to Venice, where Bacher and several other artists established
studios in the Casa Jankovitz.
By this time an avid
printmaker, Bacher had his etching press sent from Munich, and it was
in his Venice studio that he taught Duveneck the rudiments of etching.
Soon Bacher, Duveneck, and other members of the Duveneck circle were
experimenting in printmaking. Among the group's contributions
were some of the first American examples of monotypes, which they
called "Bachertypes" because they were printed using Bacher's press.
was also in Venice that Bacher met the venerable American expatriate
artist, James McNeill Whistler. On learning of Bacher's press and
his collection of etchings by Rembrandt, Whistler made himself a
regular visitor to Bacher's studio, and he eventually took his own room
in the Casa Jankovitz. Bacher spent much of the rest of 1880 with
Whistler, the two artists sharing etching techniques. From
Whistler, Bacher learned tone and line graduation; from Bacher,
Whistler learned his etching techniques, including better ways of using
the acid bath which produced less tedious and more efficient
work. Bacher visited Whistler occasionally in the years that
followed, and in 1908 he published With Whistler in Venice, his famous recollections of his time with the great artist.
spent the next two years traveling extensively throughout Italy, with
Venice as the center of his operations, and he produced a number of
important etchings of Italian subjects. Bacher sent several of
these works to America in 1881 to be included in the Society of
American Artists' exhibition that year, and had a similar group of
works shown at the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers' first exhibition
at the Hanover Gallery in London. Following the exhibition,
Bacher, along with several other of the American contributors, was
elected a Fellow of the Society. Bacher collected twelve of his
etchings of Venetian subjects and sold them in bound volumes through
his New York dealer, Frederick Keppel.
Bacher returned to
Cleveland in January 1883 as a fully cosmopolitan artist. He set
up a lavish studio furnished with exotic items and objets-d'art he had
collected on his travels, and began to hold art classes as a means to
supplement his income. He soon joined with Joseph De Camp in
forming a summer sketch class in Richfield, Ohio. Bacher and De Camp
also planned the Cleveland Room for a major loan exhibition in Detroit
that year. During this period, Bacher increasingly painted in
oil, and he began to produce sun-dappled canvases in an impressionistic
Unable to sell any paintings from this early period,
however, Bacher left Cleveland for Paris in 1885, where he planned to
undertake further studies. Stopping first in London to visit
Whistler, Bacher stayed only briefly in Paris before heading to Venice,
where he spent the remainder of the year. In January 1886, Bacher
returned to Paris and enrolled at the Académie Julian, and also entered
the atelier of Emile-Auguste Carolus-Duran. The life of the
student seems never to have suited Bacher, as he stayed in Paris only
through June, before departing again for Venice. For the next six
months he lived with Robert Blum and Charles Ulrich in the Palazzo
Contarni degli Scrigni on the Grand Canal. At the end of the
year, Bacher returned to New York, and settled permanently there after
marrying in 1888.
Bacher remained an important printmaker and
illustrator for the remainder of his career, and it is primarily as a
printmaker that he is known today. He continued to produce a
number of etchings, and also worked as a commercial illustrator, both
for magazines, such as The Century, and he produced images for
several illustrated books. He received his greatest recognition
in 1904, when he won a Silver Medal for his etchings at the St. Louis
In addition to his work in printmaking, Bacher also produced and sold a
number of oil paintings and pastels throughout the 1890s and early
1900s, many of which he exhibited in New York at the Society of
American Artists and the National Academy of Design. These works
demonstrate Bacher's assimilation of Impressionism, both in his
treatment of genteel interior scenes as well as the landscape.
One of his works, Nude Outdoors
(1893, Cleveland Museum of Art), has been recognized by William Gerdts
as perhaps "the most fully Impressionist treatment of the nude in
American art" (American Impressionism [New York: Abbeville Press, 1984], pp. 245, 246 illus. in color).
Bacher spent the last years of his life in Lawrence Park, Bronxville,
New York. Along with all the members of the Society of American
Artists, Bacher was elected an associate of the National Academy of
Design in 1906.
He died of an unexplained illness in 1909.
Submitted December 2004 by Thomas B. Parker, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York City
one of Duveneck's Boys because of his close association with Cincinnati
painter Frank Duveneck, Otto Bacher was a painter, etcher and
illustrator who was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He was one of the early
impressionists in American art, and his etchings were of high
distinction and are now part of the Print Collection of the Library of
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Bacher had his early training in Cleveland with De
Scott Evans, and in 1878 became a student in Munich, Germany. In 1880,
he was in Venice with Duveneck as well as William Merritt Chase and also
met James Whistler who commissioned Bacher to make a series of prints
of Venice for the Fine Art Society of London. This project became a
seminal turning point in Bacher's career because it focused him on the
skill of etching for which he became most known. In 1876, he had made
his first etchings in Cleveland and later perfected this technique in
Munich. He even brought his own printing press to Venice where he
shared it with Whistler. In 1907, Bacher wrote a book titled With
Whistler in Venice.
In 1883, he returned briefly to New York,
but traveled back to Europe, and from 1885-86, studied at the Academie
Julian in Paris with Gustave Boulanger, Jules Lefebvre, Carolus-Duran
and again with Frank Duveneck.
As an illustrator, Bacher was much sought after and created work for Scribner's,
McClure's, Century, and other magazines. He was one of the founding members of
the Society of Illustrators (1901), and that same year won a prize at
the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo.
Walt Reed, The Illustrator in America
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
William Gerdts, American Impressionism
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