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 Gari Melchers  (1860 - 1932)

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Lived/Active: Virginia/Michigan / France      Known for: figure, genre and portrait painting, mural

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Julius Garibaldi Melchers is primarily known as Gari Melchers

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Gari Melchers
from Auction House Records.
Portrait of Mrs. H (Mrs. George Hitchcock)
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Gari Melchers, a painter and muralist, was born in Detroit, the son of a wood-carver and Paris-trained sculptor. His father sent him abroad at seventeen, but it was not until three years later that he actually reached Paris. After pursuing academic German painting in Dusseldorf, he was delighted by the discoveries of the Impressionists, especially Monet, and their use of light.

He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Lefebvre and Boulanger, and was influenced by Bastien-Lepage and Puvis de Chavannes. Among his friends were Saint-Saens, the composer, and Dumas fils, the dramatist. His first exhibited picture, The Letter, painted in Brittany, was accepted for the Salon. From 1883 to 1909, he lived in Egmond Holland, where he did numerous peasant genre and marine scenes, and studied the Old Masters, especially admiring Vermeer. In 1909, he settled in Weimar, Germany, presiding over the art academy, but he came to the U.S. when World War I began.

Melcher returned to his home, "Belmont", near Fredericksburg, Virginia. This is where the Madonna of the Rappahannock was painted. Above his studio door, was the motto for his art, "True and Clear."

Melchers received the Legion of Honor decoration. His painting, MADONNA, Dutch in suggestion and painted on parchment mounted on canvas, hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. His work, VESPERS, is in the City Art Museum of St. Louis. There are Melcher murals in the Library of Congress, Detroit Public Library and Missouri State Capitol, and many other places in America. He also had paintings in the Luxembourg Museum, Paris, the National Gallery of Berlin, and in the Dresden Gallery.

His portraits include Austen George Fox in the Harvard Club, New York; Charles L. Hutchinson, president, in the Art Institute of Chicago; President Roosevelt in the Freer Gallery, Washington; and The Artists Mother.


(Information on the biography above is based on writings from the book, "Contemporary American Portrait Painters", Illustrating and Describing the Work of Fifty Living Painters, by Cuthbert Lee)




Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:
GARI MELCHERS (1860-1932)

Julius Garibaldi Melchers--born of German immigrant parents in Detroit and an expatriate for over thirty years--spent the latter years of his career on a Virginia estate painting distinctly American themes.  His art at that time and, indeed, throughout his career was characterized by the motto which hung over the entrance to the artist's studio: "True and Clear."

The son of a Westphalian sculptor, Melchers received his earliest instruction from his father before entering the Dusseldorf Academy for formal academic study in 1877. From there, he relocated to Paris where he undertook instruction at the Academie Julien and was subsequently admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. While his earlier works were often genre scenes painted in a style reminiscent of Vermeer, Melchers' art evolved to reflect a brighter color scheme, looser brushwork, and other impressionistic qualities as a result of his stay and study in France.

By 1884, the artist had established a studio in the Dutch fishing village of Egmond aan Zee, and enjoyed critical and financial success. In 1889, his reputation was solidified when he was awarded the grand prize at the Paris Universalle Exposition, sharing honors with John Singer Sargent. Melchers often returned to the United States during these expatriate years to fulfill painting commissions before settling permanently in Virginia at the outset of World War I.

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:
Julius Garibaldi (Gari) Melchers was born in Detroit in 1860, five years after his family emigrated from Germany.  His father was a sculptor and offered Saturday drawing classes, which Melchers attended as a youngster.  At age of 17, Melchers entered the study of art full time at the Düsseldorf Academy where he was trained in the academic tradition.  After a few years in Germany, Melchers moved to Paris to study at the Académie Julian before being admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts.(1)

For Melchers, his studies in Paris were instrumental in eliminating the dark, typically German palette from his paintings.  Now a “lighter palette and looser quasi-Impressionism was executed,” attributed to Manet’s influence, yet, he continued to draw solid figures.(2)  Completing his scholastic training and after receiving numerous awards, Melchers decided to remain in Europe. 

Melchers became a true expatriate when he established a studio shared with a fellow American artist, George Hitchcock, in Egmond aan Zee, Holland.  Melchers continued to travel throughout Europe and often returned to the United States, but the people of Holland served as his primary inspiration and subject matter for many years.  By 1889, his professional reputation was established firmly at the Paris Universalle Exposition where he received the grand prize for painting, along with John Singer Sargent.  This was the first time this honor was bestowed upon American artists.  During this time, Melchers remained connected to the United States through many painting commissions, especially for portraits.

In 1909, Melchers settled in Weimar, the cultural center of Germany, presiding over the art academy.  However, with the onset of World War I, he was forced to return to the United States and he settled in Falmouth, Virginia.  By this time, Melchers’ style had been influenced by several movements and began to reveal impressionist tendencies with “a moderate to heavy impasto, coarse brushwork, a light palette, and strong use of colors.”(3)  In 1916, Melchers was elected to the National Academy of Design, and in 1931, he was made a trustee of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington.  He died at Belmont in 1932.

Footnotes:
1. For biographical information, see Janice C. Oresman, Gari Melchers, 1860-1932: American Painter (New York: Graham Gallery, 1978) and Diane Lesko and Esther Persson, editors, Gari Melchers: A Retrospective Exhibition (St. Petersburg, Fl.: Museum of Fine Arts, 1990).
2. Dreiss, Joseph G., Gari Melchers, His Works at Belmont (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1984), xvi.
3. Richard Reid, “Gari Melchers: An American Artist in Virginia,” Virginia Cavalcade (Spring 1979), 163.  Besides his home in Virginia, it is perhaps his connection to his in-laws in Savannah that his great influence was felt in building their beloved Telfair Academy’s early Twentieth Century painting collection by convincing his artist friends to sell their works at affordable prices to the Savannah museum. Pivotal works by Bellows, Cassatt and others entered the Telfair’s collection under the guidance and eye of Gari Melchers.
Submitted by the Staff of the Columbus Museum, Georgia

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Julius Melchers is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Impressionists Pre 1940
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Paris Pre 1900



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