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 Carl Henry Ahrens  (1862 - 1936)

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Lived/Active: California/New York/Ontario / Canada      Known for: landscape, genre, missions, printmaker, illustrator

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Carl Henry Von Ahrens is primarily known as Carl Henry Ahrens

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Ad Code: 4
Carl Henry Ahrens
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc.:
Carl Henry von Ahrens (Canadian, 1862-1936) was an artist, printmaker, illustrator, ceramicist, writer, poet and teacher, known for his landscape and portrait paintings and his ties with the Roycroft,  Elbert Hubbard’s Arts & Crafts community in East Aurora, New York.

1862- Born to Herman and Isabella Ahrens, February 15th, Winfield, Ontario, Canada.

Circa early 1880’s- Studied dentistry under his uncle Alfred Ahrens.  Moved to Nebraska City, Nebraska to open his own practice, which was a success.

Circa mid 1880’s- Married Emily Marion Carroll and their first son was born, Carl Herman, Nebraska City, Nebraska.

1886- With little formal training, he took up painting and found his calling.  He observed the methods of other painters.  Within a year he gave up dentistry and the family moved back to Toronto, and he opened a studio there on Adelaide Street.

1889- First exhibition at the Ontario Society of Artists, Toronto, Ontario Canada.

Circa 1890’s- Exhibited at the Ontario Society of Artists.

1891- Exhibited at the Canadian National Exhibition.  Elected Associate Painter in the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

Circa 1892- Studied painting under William Merritt Chase and drawing & sculpture under Francis Edwin Elwell, NYC.

1893- His painting Cradled In The Net was exhibited at the World’s Columbian Exhibition, Chicago, IL.

Circa 1893-95- Under his friend’s encouragement, fellow painter and mentor George Inness, Carl was told to stop taking art classes and paint what he wished to paint. S o Carl took his advice, moved back to Toronto, and resigned from all professional associations and began painting landsdcapes.

1895-96- Exhibited at the Canadian National Exhibition.

1896- Carl and his family moved onto the Ojibway Indian reservation, Southampton, Ontario Canada.  The family was officially adopted by the tribe and given new names.  Carl was given the Indian name of "Ah-sa-ba-nang" (the name of the lost son), which translates to Cluster of Stars.

1899- Met Elbert Hubbard, founder of the Roycroft Campus, who asked him to join his Arts & Crafts community and open a pottery studio, East Aurora, NY.

1900- Moved to East Aurora, NY with their three children (Carl, Robert & Pauline) and worked as a ceramicist craftsman at the Roycroft and later had his first one-man exhibition there. He remained at the Roycroft for two years. While there he met his later wife Martha Niles, a young artist and singer who illuminated books for
the book shop, whom he affectionately called Madonna.

Circa 1902-03- Briefly moved to Chautauqua, NY to help found and open an Arts & Crafts school. Moved back to East Aurora until 1905.

1905-06- Moved to New York City and was soon commissioned by Author George Wharton James (a Roycroft contact) to paint the Old Spanish Missions in California, to use as illustrations for a book on the same subject (due to financial losses in an earthquake, James was unable to publish the book).  Studied with William Keith, San Francisco, CA.

Circa 1906-07- Carl married Martha Niles, one month before their son Laird was born.

1907- Moved back to Toronto and opened a studio.  Met patron Colonel (later General) Malcolm Smith Mercer at an exhibition of Carl’s Meadowvale paintings, who agreed to purchase all of Carl’s paintings for the next three years.

1908- Their daughter Penelope was born.

1910- Their daughter Penelope died, one month before their daughter Sigrid Ahrens was born.

1911- One-man exhibition of 31 paintings of “The Mercer Collection” was exhibited at the Public Reference Library, Toronto, Ontario Canada.  Offers were made to purchase the entire collection, some as high as $100,000 from European galleries, but Mercer refused.  The collection was invited to be exhibited in Belgium, the first of its kind for a North American artist by a European country, but was halted due to the start of World War I.

1912- Their daughter Chloris, was born.

1917- Solo exhibition by The Robert’s Art Gallery, Toronto.

1919- Carl’s painting The Glade was requested for an extended loan to the Glasgow Galleries, Scotland.

1920- The family moved to the artist colony in Woodstock, NY, and Carl taught landscape painting there with Charles Etherington.

1921- Family moved to Rockport, MA.

1922- Family moved back to Toronto, Canada. Taught painting at his home that he called “Big Trees”.

1923- Exhibited at the Canadian National Exhibition.

1925- Began printmaking.

1930- Exhibited at the Canadian National Exhibition.

1933- One-man show to include selected prints, Cunningham’s Studio, Hamilton Ontario, and another show in Montreal, Canada.

1935-36- Had last exhibition of selected works from the “Mercer Collection” which were also sold.  The family moved to England, an arrangement they thought would be permanent, and four months later Carl suffered a series of strokes.  Carl wanted to go back home, so the family soon moved back to Galt, Toronto.  Carl spent the last few years of his life in recurring illnesses and pain.  He spent the last months of his life in care at the Toronto Psychiatric Hospital, under the request of his wife Madonna, to their old friend, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King.  Carl continued to paint until his death.

1936- Died, February 27th, Toronto, Canada after a long illness, at the age of 74.

Circa 1937- A “Memorial Exhibition of Selected Works” was held at the Mellors Galleries, Toronto, Ontario Canada.

1984- Exhibition of Ahren’s prints at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Ontario, Canada.

1995- Exhibition at Meibohm Fine Arts, East Aurora, NY.

2007- April 28th, was dubbed “Carl Ahrens Day” by the Waterloo Historical Society, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Kitchener, Ontario.

Member: The Ontario Society of Artists, the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

Exhibited also: The Royal Academy (frequently), Ontario, Canada.

Works: National Gallery of Canada and numerous public collections (please visit for further information).

Publications: "Song of the Rapids", in the Saturday Night, October 6, 1894 issue.

(Rewritten and compiled chronologically by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY.  Sources: website, developed and is maintained by the artist's great-grand daughter Kim Bullock. Who was Who in American Art, 1999.)

Biography from Crocker Art Museum Store:
A Painter. Born in Winfield, Ontario, Canada in 1863.

Carl Ahrens began seriously painting in 1887.

In 1906 he studied in San Francisco with William Keith (one of Keith's rare male pupils) and while there painted several views of the missions.

By 1907 he was back in Canada with a studio in Toronto.

Member: Royal Canadian Academy. AAW; Ben.
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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