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 Alexander Grinager  (1865 - 1949)

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Lived/Active: Minnesota      Known for: landscape-urban, genre

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from Auction House Records.
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Biography from Fine Arts Collection, Luther College:
Alexander Grinager, son of Mons and Anna Egge Grinager, who emigrated from Brandbu, Hadeland, Norway, was born in Albert Lea, MN, on January 26, 1865. His parents lived in the Decorah area during the early years of their marriage. He studied with C.W. Krupp, the landscape artist, in Philadelphia, PA, before going abroad in 1887. From 1887-1891, Grinager was a pupil at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen, Denmark where he studied with Carl Bloch, Johan Fr. Vermehren, and Otto Backe. He also studied in Paris at the Julien Academy under Benjamin Constant and Paul Laurens, and while in France was particularly influenced by Manet, Monet, and by the works of Bastien LePage. He studied further in Norway, Italy and Sicily.

After returning to the U.S., Grinager lived in Minneapolis, MN, for several years studying with Peter Clausen, a Danish scenic painter, and Brut Harwood. In 1896, he moved to the New York area and remained there for the remainder of his life, making his living as an easel painter, a stage designer, and a muralist. In New York he is said to have never received the recognition as a painter to match the renown he achieved as a set designer. He designed and carried out the scenic effects for many productions by David Belasco including “Ben-Hur” and “Chanticleer.” He was also chief designer and artist at various times for Ernest Albert and Castle & Harvey. His mural paintings included ”The Streets of Baghdad” which covered one floor of the Grand Central Palace. He also painted a mural in 1916 entitled “Panorama of the History of the U.S. Navy” for the San Francisco World’s Fair. In 1932, he painted six murals for the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago, IL.

Grinager married Margaret Wade, a painter, designer and weaver, and had two sons. Together they traveled to Cornwall, UK, where they joined the Kernow Group of Truro, England, and exhibited landscapes with that group. Grinager died March 8, 1949, at the age of eighty-four in Briar Cliff Manor, NY.

Grinager’s works were exhibited in a number of venues. He participated in exhibits of the Minneapolis Art League and the Artists League of Minneapolis between 1887 and 1915. He exhibited four works at the Minnesota Industrial Exposition in 1891 and thirteen at the same Exposition two years later. In 1910, twelve of his paintings were exhibited at the Odin Club in Minneapolis, MN, and at the St. Paul Auditorium. In 1933-34, his works were shown at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago, IL. His paintings were regularly exhibited at the prestigious Salmagundi Club in New York between 1908 and 1946. In 1989, works by Grinager were shown at the “Norway in America” exhibit arranged by Vesterheim for the Norsk Utvandrermuseum in Norway. An exhibit entitled, “Paintings by Minnesotans of Norwegian Background, 1870-1970,” prepared under the auspices of the Minnesota Historical Society at Hill House in St. Paul in 2000, also included his paintings.

One of Grinager’s best-known paintings is “Boys Bathing” (1894) owned by the Minneapolis Art Institute. This oil on canvas has been used as an illustration in William H. Gerdt’s Art Across America: Two Centuries of Regional Painting, 1710-1920 (1990) and Minnesota Impressionists (1996).

The painting by Grinager in the Fine Arts Collection, entitled “Winter Scene” (n.d.), has been on the inventories since the early days of documenting the Fine Arts Collection. While it was listed as being at Luther College in the 1920’s and is included on the first formal
inventory list of 1942, no location was given for it by the 1970’s. It has been officially listed as “missing” since 1986 when more thorough records began to be maintained. There is no photograph of the work.

Ref: Obituary, New York Times, March 9, 1949, p. 25; Hansen, Carl G.O. My Minneapolis. Minneapolis, MN: Standard Press, 1956; Nelson, Marion. “Revelations of Light,” in Newsletter, Norwegian-American Museum. Vol. 24 (Summer 1989), 1, 5; Gerdts, William H. Art Across America: Two Centuries of Regional Painting, 1710-1920. New York, NY: Abbeville Press, 1990; Nelson, Marion. Painting by Minnesotans of Norwegian Background, 1870-1970. Northfield, MN: Norwegian-American Historical Association, 2000.

Written and submitted by Jane Kemp
Professor; Circulation-Special Collections Librarian
Supervisor, Fine Arts Collection (
Luther College
Decorah, IA 52101

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