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 Erasmus Humbrecht  (1845 - 1901)

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Lived/Active: Louisiana/Ohio / France      Known for: church mural painting and church interior decoration

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Ad Code: 4
Erasmus Humbrecht
from Auction House Records.
The Crucifixion
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information from is the answer by Blake Pontchartrain, columnist of "New Orleans Trivia" to the question, "HEY BLAKE, who painted the large mural ceiling of St. Louis Cathedral?"

Erasmus Humbrecht, a Swiss-trained artist born in Alsace around 1849. Records show Humbrecht was 23 in 1872 when he began decorating the cathedral with a series of paintings as part of renovations to the building, which was reconstructed in 1850 to repair structural deficiencies and to make it larger to accommodate increasing numbers of worshippers. Humbrecht's art fills the cathedral, but his largest work is a painting of St. Louis announcing the Seventh Crusade, a 40-foot scene that dominates the back wall.

According to records of the archdiocese, Humbrecht's bill was $1,950, which included $250 for the ceiling mural in the sanctuary, a work he named The Sacrifice of the Divine Lamb.

Twenty years later, in 1891-92, Humbrecht was in charge of another renovation at St. Louis Cathedral. He personally refreshed his earlier paintings and added more. At the same time, he changed the color scheme in the interior.

Humbrecht made his reputation in church decoration. In addition to the murals in the St. Louis Cathedral, he decorated the ceiling of Holy Trinity Church in New Orleans. (Those murals were ruined during repairs to the church after Hurricane Betsy in 1965). Humbrecht's reputation spread, and he decorated church ceilings throughout the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys.

The artist died in 1901 in Cincinnati, leaving behind a wife and three children. He is buried in St. Roch Cemetery.

An article in The Times-Picayune of April 24, 1938, corroborated the fact that Humbrecht was the artist who created the St. Louis Cathedral murals. According to documents found in the cathedral, Humbrecht deserves all credit for any murals painted there since 1850. In fact, he is the only artist ever linked in print to the cathedral murals. Among the documents is a clipping from the Morning Star and Catholic Messenger, which at the time was the official publication of the Catholic archdiocese. Dated July 20, 1873, the clipping ascribed to Humbrecht the design and execution of "recently completed" fresco work in the cathedral.

While it has been suggested that others were involved in decorating the cathedral, there is no proof or reference to decorations in the interior between 1850 and 1872. Documents in the archives hold financial records of the cathedral during the mid-19th century, but there are no records that any artists were hired or paid to decorate the inside of St. Louis Cathedral. A small journal Humbrecht kept during his travels shows that on his way to New Orleans he stopped in Martinique to decorate a monastery. It also reveals that he arrived and married in New Orleans early in 1872, and in that same year was paid for "decoration of the cathedral."

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Erasmus Humbrecht was born Feb. 12 1845 in Alsace-Lorraine, France. Erasmus was taught how to paint by members of the order of Monks, which was in charge of the orphanage where he was raised.

Hunbrecht studied in Switzerland and lived in Paris and Ireland copying the Old Masters. In 1872, he arrived in New Orleans, and in 1873, he got a contract to paint murals in St. Louis cathedral in New Orleans.  In 1880 he painted ceilings and side alters of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, and in 1888, he painted murals in St. Mary's Cathedral, Mississippi.

Erasmus journeyed to Cincinnati, Ohio where he joined other artisans who filled church contracts to paint and decorate the interiors of their churches in Ohio and Illinois. In 1892 Erasmus reprinted and added to the decoration of St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.

In1901 Erasmus died in Cincinnati and is buried in St. Roch Cemetery, New Orleans. He is listed in Annemarie Springer's book 19th Century German-American Church Artists.

Birth certificate.
Leonard V. Huber and Samuel Wilson, Jr., The Basilica on Jackson Square, the History of the St. Louis Cathedral 1727-1987 .

Researched by Mathias Kern and submitted by Kathy Kern

These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
Erasmus Humbrecht arrived in New Orleans from France in 1872. He established himself as a mural painter and he had commissions for churches and cathedrals including fresco murals for the St Louis Cathedral.

Source: Neal Auction Company, February 2005

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