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 Frederick Papsdorf  (1887 - 1978)

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Lived/Active: Michigan/Ohio      Known for: naive town-landscape, still life

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Frederick Papsdorf
An example of work by Frederick Papsdorf
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Cris Reed:

Frederick Papsdorf was my great uncle, the brother to my grandmother. Because she lived with us for all of my growing up years, I remember Uncle Fred coming out to our farm near Napoleon, Michigan and spending a day or two with us. He would open his enormous sedan trunk (in the 50's especially) and pull out his paintings to give away to Mom and Grandma. He smoked a pipe, would go into my grandmother's room, and they would chat for hours in German.

Sometimes he brought his wife Aunt Tina (or Teena?). I visited him in his home in Detroit in about 1977 during the winter. He was frail but very alert and insisted that I take a painting of my choice. He was putting together a show and had loads of frames and paintings. It was a great experience for me to see his "frame shop" where he used old barn siding, any recycled things you can imagine to do his own framing.

Nearly all of the pieces I have are framed in weathered, distressed materials. The painting I chose is titled "Fall Leaves" and dated 1975. To my recall, he died later that spring, which would place it 1977, possibly 1978. I'll keep digging to find out more. His date of birth was June 10, 1887, in Coshooton, Ohio, according to family records. His wife was Christine Volkenant. They married Nov. 14, 1912. There are three children: Henry Papsdorf, Mildred Papsdorf Champion, Martha Papsdorf Montgomery.

Finding this website has been thrilling for me. I have such fond memories of our "eccentric" uncle who gave us so many of his paintings. I have about a dozen or so, and have always been fascinated with his beautiful primitive work. I also have a box full of his handmade Christmas greetings which he painted for Grandma every year. I have a very old pen and ink done when he still worked at the Creamery and just painted for fun, 1930. Most of the others are late '30's, thru the early 50's.
The following has been sent by Rita Wells, relative of the artist and family researcher, who wrote: "I have received a letter from my great uncle's daughter Mildred Papsdorf Cadorette of East Tawas, Michigan. She was so thrilled to hear that her father's art was featured on your web site. . . .she has written a biography of her father that she would like me to send you. This is what she wrote to me on March 6, 2001.

I am the daughter Mildred Papsdorf Cadorette of Fred Papsdorf. I am the only
one living of our family and make my home in East Tawas, Michigan. I am 78
years old. Dad was pre-deceased by his wife Christine, daughter Martha and
son Henry. Dad died October 31, 1978 and was living with me at the time. He
has many wonderful grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews scattered around these United States who continue to love and admire his primitive art.

Frederick Papsdorf was born in Dover, Ohio on June 10, 1887 to Otto and
Wilhelmina (Moore) Papsdorf. On November 14, 1912 he was married to Christine Volkenant. His father was Pastor of St. James church in Saline, Michigan for 30 years. The painting "My Father's Church" is my grandfather in the pulpit at the church in Saline. Grandmother and Grandfather are buried near the church.

My grandfather "Otto" made many beautiful "pencil sketches" in his day and I feel this is where my father inherited his talent. His paintings have been of a primitive nature and he was completely "self taught". It was in is heart. He was also very encouraged by a famous artist in Detroit by the name of Sarkis
Sarkisian. He helped him to make his canvas stretcher frames and prepare
them so they would be well primed and last a long time. His mother and
sister Minnie were also great admirers of his work.

My mother Christine was a "no nonsense" type of person and during the depression she felt that we did not have money to spend for paint, brushes and linen canvas, as he used only the finest he could buy. However, he saved every little nickel and dime he could. He only earned about $25.00 a week at the time and kept about $5.00 each week for street car fare to and from work. The rest my mother fed, clothed and paid the bills with. It was not easy, so one could understand the love and concern she had for her family's well being.

He put on the average of 25 hours in each of his paintings. The quality was perfect, and we can see this in paintings that were painted as early as 1935. Color nor quality has been impaired.

Dad had many "one man shows" at the Detroit Artist Market, Perls Gallery in
New York, Racz Gallery in Allen Park, Michigan and O'Connors Pendleton Shop
in East Tawas, Michigan. There are many museums including the Smithsonian
museums in Philadelphia and probably more that are unknown to me. Among the notables that own his paintings are Charles Laughton, Greta Garbo, Edsel Ford and more. I was only 19 years old when Charles Laughton appeared at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. He wandered over to the Artist Market and saw Dad's work and liked it. He asked to see more so was directed to our house. He came to our house, bought 4 paintings, and honored us with his presence at one of my mother's famous ham dinners and apple pie. My sister Martha and I giggled about his jokes for days. He declined my mother's apple pie, as he did not want to "burp" on the stage that night, and blame it on my mother's pie. He honored us all with tickets to the performance that night at the Fox Theatre. It was indeed an exciting day.

By this time we were crawling out of the depression. Mother has the house
paid off, and she is able to take more time to enjoy and admire her husband's
talent. We all began to breathe a little easier. He kept his job at Borden
Creamery and is now earning $52.00 a week. He retired in 1952.

At this time in my life, I wish my brother Henry, my sister Martha and our
mother Christine, could experience the joy I am feeling today. We miss them
all terribly. I want to thank any of you people out there, that might still
be living, that helped and encouraged my father to his success. I live in
East Tawas with a wonderful husband. We have 6 wonderful children between us, and their spouses, plus many wonderful grandchildren and great grandchildren. We love them all. God has been good to us. Thank you for this opportunity to document our father Fred Papsdorf, the milkman by day and artist by night. Sincerely,
Mildred (Papsdorf) Cadorette
Daughter of Fred and Christine Papsdorf
The following is submitted by Dave Anderson:

I have four lovely Papsdorf paintings displayed proudly in my living room in Rochester, NY. Each depicts a different flower and three of the paintings have "ink on paper" descriptive cards on the back. The three descriptions are as follows, '57 "Flowers identified from the Clinton marsh",'61 "from Whittier CA. NADA (iris family)and another from '61 "Wild Columbine"

Each canvas is 8" wide by 10" high and are handmade Mahogany frames. These paintings came from my grandparents estate in Grosse Point Farms, MI.

I would also like to share with you a bit of information that I stumbled across a couple of years back while trying to research some artists, I was doing some searches on Ebay and happened to find a Frederick Papsdorf painting up for auction, it also was a "Flowers in the Wild" style. I don't believe this particular item met the seller's reserve, but in the seller's item description there was reference made that a Papsdorf painting had sold at Greta Garbo's estate for $10,000. The accuracy of that information I personally cannot guarantee, I am only sharing my findings. For me I enjoy the way these paintings capture the beauty of nature and to have a bit of that beauty displayed indoors in my home, which by the way is a 50's ranch home, fully furnished and decorated in 50's- 60's period styling. The Papsdorf pieces are wonderful!

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