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 William Charles Anthony Frerichs  (1829 - 1905)



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Lived/Active: New York/New Jersey/North Carolina / Netherlands/Belgium      Known for: landscape, figure, genre and portrait painting, teaching

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Ad Code: 3
William Charles Anthony Frerichs
from Auction House Records.
Falls of Tamakaka, Cherokee County, North Carolins
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
William Frerichs, best known for landscapes and winter scenes, was born in Ghent and educated in Belgium but immigrated to the United States about 1852. He settled first in New York City and exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1852.

He taught art in Greensboro, North Carolina from 1854 to 1863. In 1869 he moved to Tottenville, Staten Island, and later to Newark, New Jersey, where he operated an art school. He died in Tottenville March 16, 1905.

Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art

Biography from Carolina Galleries - Southern Art:
In the early days of America, settlers and colonists were constantly overwhelmed both physically and visually by the vast wilderness that lay before them at seemingly every turn. Naturally, as the country grew, it attracted painters foreign and domestic who recorded this glory on canvas. This American school of landscape paintings flourished from about 1825 through the end of the Nineteenth Century and reached its apex with the Hudson River School.

The expression Hudson River School first originated around 1879 and was applied to a group of artists painting in New York, the Hudson River and its shores, and the Catskill Mountains. Another characteristic was socializing and maintaining studios in New York City. Notable among these artists were such icons of landscape paintings as Albert Bierstadt, Frederic E. Church, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Asher Durand, Sanford R. Gifford, and Thomas Worthington Whittredge.

In 1850, William Charles Anthony Frerichs arrived in New York City from Brussels. In 1852 he exhibited at the National Academy of Design and was elected to the New York Sketch Club, thus affiliating himself with the Hudson River School of landscape painting. By 1855, he had accepted a teaching position at Greensboro College in North Carolina. He discovered in western North Carolina a wilderness as wild as anything he had seen in New York state and proceeded to capture the scenery around the Blue Ridge Mountains and the French Broad River.

Constantly harassed by Indians, Frerichs explored the balds and gorges of the Blue Ridge in search of subject matter for his expansive canvases. He returned to New York in 1865 and spent the rest of his life in New Jersey and on Staten Island, where he died in 1905.

North Carolina Waterfall, circa 1855-1865, depicts a rather large waterfall with two men fishing for trout from the rocks on either side. In the lower right hand corner, a goatee artist (Frerichs?) is engaged in painting a picture while a female companion watches. This painting shows its subjects clearly engaging in leisurely pursuits, and the peaceful serenity of the scene clearly ignores the approaching threat of war.

Southern Waters is likely a composite painting from memory, featuring two large balds, a prominent outcropping of rocks, with a small boat centered in the middle of a lake.  It is a composition that Frerichs repeats over and over. North Carolina Cabin, circa 1855-1865, is very likely Frerich’s southern masterpiece. A typical southern log cabin sits askew on a small knoll with a raging waterfall cascading in the background. As a man heads out to hunt, dressed in homespun butternut, his wife feeds leftover grits to the chickens scurrying below the front porch.

Exhibitions include: National Academy of Design, (1852).

Georgia Museum of Art
Morris Museum of Art
Greenville County Museum of Art
North Carolina Museum of Art
Mobile Museum of Art
The Newark Museum
Columbus Museum of Art

Biographical sources include: (American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987, New York City), ( Art and Artists of the South, Bruce w. Chambers, University of South Carolina Press, 1984, S.C.).

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:

William Charles Anthony Frerichs was born on March 2, 1829, in Ghent, then a part of the Netherlands. He moved to The Hague as a child and entered the Royal Academy at the age of six, where he studied with the landscape painters Andreas Schelfhout and Bartholomeus J. van Hove, each man an important figure in Dutch art in the mid-nineteenth century. After three years of academic study at the University of Leyden, he returned to The Hague to graduate from the academy in 1846. He completed his professional education with training at the Royal Academy in Brussels, and made his Grand Tour of the continent in the late 1840's, traveling to Paris, Rome, and Vienna. His work won prizes in several exhibitions during this time.

Encouraged to pursue his artistic career in the United States, Frerichs left his homeland in 1850 for New York. In 1852 he exhibited a portrait at the National Academy of Design, and was elected to the New York Sketch Club. In 1855, recently married, he moved to Greensboro, North Carolina to take up the duties of Professor of Drawing, Painting, and French at the Greensboro Female College (now named Greensboro College). A fire in 1863 destroyed the college and all of Frerich's paintings which were then in his studio. He taught briefly at Edgewood Seminary, a Presbyterian school also in Greensboro, before becoming art instructor at a Quaker college in New Garden, North Carolina. The Confederate Corps of Engineers drafted him to supervise mining in the Sauratown Mountains, an area familiar to him from sketching trips.

During his North Carolina years Frerichs often rambled the Blue Ridge, the Great Smokies, and the Appalachians, doing sketches from which he would draw inspiration for full-size canvases for the remainder of his career. He was one of the first painters to venture into western North Carolina, which in the 1850s and 1860s was sparsely populated. These forests held for Frerichs the promise of the American wilderness, of which he had undoubtedly dreamed as a young painter in Europe.

Soon after the conclusion of the Civil War the Frerichs family, hard-hit economically, decided to return to the northeast. The artist lived in the New York-New Jersey area for the rest of his life.

This essay is copyrighted by the Charleston Renaissance Gallery and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission from Hicklin Galleries, LLC.

Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia:
William Charles Anthony Frerichs was born March 1829, in Ghent, then a part of the Netherlands.  He studied art in The Hague as a child where he entered the Academie van Beeldende Kunsten at the age of six, under the tutelage of landscape painters Andreas Schelfhout and Bartholomeus J. van Hove, who were both important figures in Dutch art in the mid-nineteenth century.  Schelfhout had a particular interest in the light reflective qualities of snow and water, a concern, which was to have a lasting effect on the art of his pupil.

In 1850, Frerichs immigrated to America and settled in the Greenwich Village section of New York City.  Little is known of his early years in New York except that he exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1852, and he was elected a member of the New York Sketch Club in 1852.  In late 1854, he had accepted a teaching position as Professor of Drawing, Painting, and French at the Greensboro Female College (now known as Greensboro College).

He arrived in North Carolina in early 1855.  During these years, Frerichs often rambled the Blue Ridge, the Great Smokies, and the Appalachians, collecting material in the form of sketches from which he would draw inspiration for full-size canvases the rest of his career. 

He was one of the first painters to venture into western North Carolina, which in the 1850s was still quite untamed.  After the conclusion of the Civil War Frerichs decided to return to the northeast, where he lived in the New York - New Jersey area for the rest of his life.

He settled on Staten Island in 1868. Frerichs painted extensively in these last years of his career in New England.  In 1900, his health failing, Frerichs went to live with his eldest son in Tottenville.  He died on March 16, 1905.

Sources include:
1. Aspects of William Frerichs’s life and career in this essay are drawn largely from Benjamin F. Williams and Hildegarde J. Safford, William C.A. Frerichs, 1829-1905 (Raleigh: North Carolina Museum of Art, 1974), and Bruce Chambers, Art and Artists of the South (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1984).  Also, see Estill Curtis Pennington, A Southern Collection (Augusta, GA: Morris Museum of Art, 1992).

2. Hildegard J. Safford, “William C.A. Frerichs, Artist, 1829-1905,” The Staten Island Historisian, Vol. XXXI, No. 4, October-December, 1970, 11.

Submitted by staff, Columbus Museum

Biography from The Johnson Collection:
Born in Ghent, Flanders, Belgium, Wilhelm Karel Anthonius Frerichs moved with his family to The Hague in the Netherlands while still a small child. He is reputed to have begun his studies at The Hague’s Royal Academy of Art around 1835 with the noted Dutch romantic landscape painter Andreas Schelfhout. Encouraged by Major August Davasae, the American Charge d'Affaires who admired the young artist’s talent, Frerichs immigrated to New York in 1850. By 1852, he had begun to exhibit at the National Academy.

Frerichs arrived in America at the high tide of the Hudson River School. Luminist painters like Thomas Cole and his student Frederic Edwin Church were inspired by a much cherished landscape. A teaching position in Greensboro, North Carolina lured Frerichs to the South, where he found his own muse in the mountains and valleys of the Southern Highlands. Late in the Civil War, Frerichs was conscripted by Confederate forces as a civil engineer in the Sauratown Mountains—an area north of Greensboro where he had frequently hiked and sketched—and was reportedly captured by Union forces on three different occasions. In the wake of a failed attempt at farming in the eastern part of North Carolina, Frerichs and his family moved to New York in 1865, and he remained in the area for the balance of his life.

Frerichs painted an idealized mountainous location he named Tamahaka several times, often incorporating many of his favored aesthetic components, most notably the waterfall. As evidenced by the known body of work based on his observations and sketches in western North Carolina, Frerichs continued to paint that vibrantly animated territory for the rest of his active career. More than half of his surviving work is based on Southern material, quite a tribute considering the brief time he spent there and the nearly forty years he worked in the greater New York area. Frerichs’ work can be found in the collections of the North Carolina Museum of Art, Newark Museum of Art, Columbus (Georgia) Museum of Art and Morris Museum of Art.

The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina

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