|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Following is text from an article in Maine Antique Digest, 2007:|
"A Trove of Amish Art and History" by Cynthia A. Hummel
A treasure trove of art and history has been rediscovered in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The late father and son team of Vernon “Kiehl” Newswanger and Christian “Xtian” Newswanger created a 1954 book, Amishland, that earned praise from The New York Times. Their artworks and descriptions documented the everyday lives of their Amish neighbors, dating back to 1920.
Mark Lefever, who owns two Lancaster County antiques businesses, helped heirs of the Newswanger collection in a several-day process of moving the contents of an attic. The heirs and Lefever knew Newswanger artworks were stored there but were surprised to find hundreds of original paintings, prints, and copperplates. In addition, they found paintings by Kiehl’s wife, Myra Butterworth Newswanger, who painted floral scenes for the Philadelphia flower show and has work in the Barnes Foundation’s permanent collection.
"The works [of Kiehl and Xtian] provide a rare look at everyday Amish life in the first half of the twentieth century,” Lefever said.
The treasures belong to the heirs of Dorothy Freyer, Xtian’s girlfriend. The collection had been in the attic of Amishland Prints, a shop in the eastern Lancaster County village of Intercourse. Xtian and Dorothy passed away within three months of one another in spring 2005. Lefever, an admirer of the Newswangers’ artworks, spent months tracking down the Freyer family, who live outside the Lancaster County area. They hope to find a buyer for the collection of original works as a whole. If a buyer cannot be found, Lefever explained, the collection depicting an earlier era of Lancaster County will be split up.
Although the Newswangers’ talent took them around the world, both returned to the Leola area of Lancaster County, where their family lived since the 1700’s.
As a Penn State student, Kiehl (pronounced “keel”) drew the architectural highlights of Lancaster City’s Southern Market. He knew the people “standing market” from his youth, when he carried baskets for their customers and drew them as well. A drawing of Bishop Samuel Petersheim Stoltzfus won him the opportunity to study art in Paris in 1920.
Kiehl continued to draw the Amish upon returning home. Meanwhile prominent Philadelphians and Lancastrians commissioned him to do work for them. For example, an article in the former Lancaster Magazine described Kiehl’s full-length portraits of William F. Slaymaker and his sister Jane Slaymaker Zimmerman. A 1933 clipping describes M.T. Garvin’s ceremonial presentation of Kiehl’s painting The Arrival of James Hamilton to Lancaster City. Garvin had commissioned the work depicting Hamilton’s visit to Lancaster in 1729 to establish the city as the county seat. Kiehl included log homes as well as Native American and European residents in the scene.
Xtian declined Yale and University of Pennsylvania scholarships to apprentice with his father while attending nearby Franklin and Marshall College. He also studied at the National Art Academy in Dusseldorf, Germany on a Fulbright scholarship and at the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania. The permanent collections of the White House, the Library of Congress, the Boston Public Library, the New York Public Library, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art have examples of Xtian’s work. Besides his Fulbright scholarship, Xtian’s honors include a Louis Comfort Tiffany memorial scholarship in graphics, New York City Critic’s Choice New Talent exhibit, and the American Federation of Arts USA traveling exhibition.
In an undated clipping, Xtian shared his interest in creating a series on close-knit groups, such as Native Americans or “fisher folk.” He and Kiehl had spent three years traveling in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus as research for their art. Much of their work, however, was about the Amish with whom they lived and worked.
Amishland features the Newswangers’ drawings of everyday scenes in Plain Sect life, which shuns modern conveniences such as electricity and automobiles. Xtian provided narratives to describe the illustrations of Amish births, deaths, and just about everything in between. In 1955, New York Times critic B.A. Botkin wrote, “This unique combination of sketchbook and notebook by two dedicated Pennsylvania German artists, Kiehl Newswanger and his son, Christian, is one of the most original and authentic works to come out of the folk life of the ‘plain people.’”
Through the book, the reader meets the people behind the art. In a story accompanying Yonnie Glick–Amish Boy, Xtian wrote that the one-room schoolhouse porch seemed huge to six-year-old Yonnie on his first day. Yonnie’s older sister Katie is depicted on the same porch in Katie Glick–Amish Girl. We learn that at home Katie helped her parents carry filled pails after they milked their 86 cows twice a day. In another drawing, 19-year-old Linda is shown working on a hand-stitched quilt with a Tulip pattern for her hope chest, which already contains a quilt, embroidered pillowcases, and a dresser scarf. When increasing auto traffic made taking his wagon into town too dangerous, butcher Jacob Glick hired Xtian to drive him into Lancaster to “stand market” on Fridays and Saturdays. Xtian depicted Glick cutting a ham with a handsaw. In Old Jake and Katie Glick Old Jake wears a broad-brimmed hat and carries his oldest granddaughter and a basket on his way to market. Other characters include Katie Stoltzfus baking bread in a squirrel tail oven and David Zook shoeing a horse.
Although Southern Market has become offices, Lancaster’s Central Market remains bustling with Amish and English (i.e., non-Amish) buying and selling meats, fruits, vegetables, and baked goods. Xtian’s Amishfolk Standing Market was used in a promotional poster for Central Market.
Lefever put a sampling of Newswanger art on display in White Horse, Pennsylvania. Kiehl’s original drawing of Samuel Petersheim and a cubist painting Kiehl created in France demonstrates his range. Some of Myra’s flower paintings and Xtian’s etchings are also displayed. The exhibit may be viewed by appointment by calling (717) 768-0960.
Lefever said that to appraise the original works would be nearly impossible. “What is lacking is a documented list of sales,” he explained. With the closing of Amishland Prints upon Xtian’s and Dorothy’s deaths, the availability of individual prints has declined, because the heirs seek a buyer of the whole group of prints and plates. He said, “We are hoping for a person or institution to say ‘We are going to save this.’”
Jeri Scott does not believe Xtian stashed away the artworks by design. “That was simply the way Xtian conducted his business.” He sold prints and kept the originals.
2007 by Maine Antique Digest
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
Vernon “Kiehl” Newswanger (born circa 1901 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
He was married to Myra Butterworth Newswanger who was from Philadelphia. They painted together. Myra divorced him and married a Dr. Cox from Philadelphia. One of their two sons was Christian Newswanger. Christian's brother took the Cox name and moved with Myra. Christian was an artist as well and taught at the German Town Academy outside of Philadelphia.
Vernon (or Kiehl which he preferred, his middle name) painted in Europe in the 1920’s. He studied under Matisse and drank with Hemingway.
He was also in Cecil B. Demille’s movie The Greatest Show on Earth. He had a cameo spot as a gypsy looking man who worked with elephants, very exotic looking.
Information provided by Christine Newswanger Corbin, Certified Appraiser, the artist's niece.
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