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 Gustav Behncke  (1853 - 1937)

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Lived/Active: Wisconsin / Germany      Known for: home and church decorator, mural

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A noted church decorator and fresco artist, Gustav Behncke was born in Hamburg, Germany, October 2, 1853. During his youth, having inherited artistic talent from his father, he worked with him in Europe while studying and painting religious works. At the age of 14, he ran away to sea but returned home a year later. He soon left again, this time touring Europe and eventually heading to America.

Nothing further is known of Behncke's life until 1874, when he joined a group of gold prospectors, called the Gordon Stockade Company, who "invaded the Black Hills contrary to the dictates of the American government who ruled it as Indian territory." Afterward, he spent a short time in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he painted and decorated homes. He finally settled in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in the late 1870's. There he married Miss Ida Heiss in 1879.

He was one of the early church decorators, having painted the interior of some 175 churches throughout Wisconsin. He also did the interiors of many of the early mansions in Oshkosh. Much of his artwork consisted of flowers, birds and scrolls - that being the style of those early days. He was also known to paint scenes from the sea and the west - subjects he knew well. In poor health for the last four years of his life, he died January 21, 1937.

Submitted by Edward Bentley, art collector and researcher, September 2003

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