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 George Herzog  (1851 - 1920)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/New York / Germany      Known for: decoration, figure, interior and portrait painting

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Biography from The Masonic Library And Museum Of Pennsylvania:
The following biography has been submitted by Laura Libert, Curator of The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania.Herzog, George (American, 1851-1920)

George Herzog was born to German parents on October 19, 1851 in Munich, Bavaria. In 1865, Herzog began his artistic studies in the studio of Joseph Schwarzmann. Under Schwarzmann’s tutelage, Herzog received technical and practical instruction in design and painting. Herzog supplemented his hands-on education at the studio by attending lectures in art history, design, and decorative painting at the Royal Academy of Arts.

In the early 1870’s, Herzog joined the growing numbers of German craftsman emigrating to the United States, and traveled directly to Philadelphia. According to the 1874 city directory of Philadelphia, Herzog joined the firm of prominent decorators Konstantine and Otto Kaiser. His work received prizes and critical praise at the Centennial Exposition and in 1879, upon the death of Konstantine Kaiser, Herzog assumed management of the firm.

From the years 1880-1893, Herzog maintained a studio at 1334 Chestnut Street. His name appeared in Philadelphia city directories; he was listed at various times as a decorative painter, fresco painter, artist, or artist and decorator. Herzog’s studio consisted of three rooms on the third floor with a staff of twenty-five painters, all of them skilled workmen, and most of them Americans. With an outstanding business reputation, Herzog was willing to undertake any job, regardless of the scale or difficulty. His studio specialized in ceiling and wall decorations, as well as high-class interior decorative painting of every description and oil portraiture. Many of Herzog’s clients were prominent Philadelphia industrialists, such as P.A.B. Widener (1887), William Elkins (1890), and William Kemble (1890).

Herzog’s work was not limited to fine residences. He was commissioned for several large-scale projects including the interior decoration of the new Masonic Temple (1889-1903), the Union League (1881-1889), and courtrooms and offices in Philadelphia’s new City Hall (1889-1891). His prestige led to work outside of Philadelphia; Herzog submitted designs for a courtroom in Memphis, TN and designed and decorated the grand ballroom of the Liederkranz society in New York (completed in 1886, demolished in 1964). The growing demand for his work led him to open a studio in New York in 1887, which he ran concurrently with his Philadelphia location.

The decorative painting of George Herzog is elaborate, colorful, intricate, and personalized. In all structures that retain his work, at least half of the surface area is covered with decoration, generally applied onto a flat plaster surface including the ceilings and walls. Much of the decoration is usually an organization of geometric patterns in combination with floral and classically inspired scenes. However, much of what Herzog painted was personalized to the wants and desires of the patron, as opposed to rote repetition of common motifs.

Unfortunately, much of Herzog’s work has not survived the test of time. Many of the buildings and residences designed and decorated by him have been demolished, refurbished, or simply painted over in order to suit later tastes. In most cases, the only testament to his creative genius lies in the various watercolor renderings of design ideas that are housed at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia and The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania.

Fortunately for Herzog’s admirers, Philadelphia’s Masonic Temple has little changed in the hundred years or so since Herzog painted there, and it is open for public tours. Roughly 80% of the interior decoration of the building was designed by Herzog’s hand. I

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