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After the Storm, 1887
Carl Brenner (1838-1888)

View Artist Bio
Oil on canvas
30 x 68 inches
Signature Details: Carl C. Brenner/87
Status: Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, South Carolina

Born in Lauterecken, Pfalz, Bavaria (now Germany), Carl Brenner demonstrated such artistic talent as a youth that his teacher, Philip Frölich, sought and obtained admission for him to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. Instead of pursuing art study, he was trained by his father as a glazier. At the age of fifteen, he immigrated with his family to the United States, arriving first in New Orleans in January, 1854, and resettling in Louisville later that year, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life. During this trip along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, he made some of his earliest native landscape sketches, and was encouraged by a German-American newspaper editor in Louisville to pursue his art.

 

Brenner completed his education at a private school in Louisville in a neighborhood known as Butchertown, and worked for the next two decades as a glazier, sign, and ornamental painter, in addition to owning a paint store. In 1863 he designed and painted a thirty-five-thousand-square-foot, life-sized panorama of major Civil War events, accompanied by narrative, and displayed on the theater stage of the Masonic Temple in Louisville. He exhibited one of his large and ornate painted glass signs in the 1869 Paris Exposition, and later sent another example, then valued at two thousand dollars, to the Vienna Exposition in 1873.

 

By the late 1870s Brenner was able to devote most of his time to landscape painting, and created the many detailed and lush views of parks, rivers, and forests in Louisville and the Cumberland Mountains, for which he became well known and especially beloved in his home city. He also traveled to the West to paint views of the plains states, Colorado, California, Washington, and Oregon.

           

Not many of Brenner’s landscapes contain figures, as does his After the Storm. Although infrequent, when he placed figures in his landscapes, they were often engaged in simple tasks like washing clothes in a wooded stream, or conducting chores around the farm, or simply looking in wonder of nature down a waterway or path in the lush woods. Adopting the pictorial symbolism of his German Romantic predecessors, Caspar David Friedrich and Adrian Ludwig Richter, Brenner used trees, running water, the lighted forest pathway, and the dwarfed single figure in an immense landscape setting to suggest humankind’s intimate and transcendent connection to the divine. The lone female figure on a footpath in After the Storm suggests that human beings are fragile, subject to the awesome power of natural forces, yet endowed with the capacity to endure hardships and to persevere through faith. Although the trees are wind-damaged and the shadows among the barren rocks seem ominous, the storm has passed. Small leaves bud forth in rejuvenation, and spring offers the joy of new hope in life’s journey.

 

This painting is one of two works that are noted in the Louisville Courier-Journal’s 1887 report of Brenner’s annual Christmas sale. The article lists After the Rain and After the Storm, both purchased by a “Mr. Giles.”

 

 

Brenner exhibited landscapes in the Louisville Industrial Exposition in 1874 and Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876. He participated regularly in annual exhibitions of the National Academy of Design in New York from 1877 to 1886, and in those of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1881 to 1885. RS/GM

 

Sources

Bier, Justus. “Carl C. Brenner, A German-American Landscapist,” The German-American Review (August 1951), pp. 20-33.

 

“Fair Prices Realized—Continuation of the Sale of Pictures at the Studio of Carl Brenner,” Courier-Journal, December 21, 1887.

 

Moffett, Gordon, “Carl Brenner, The Early Years, 1838-1854.”  Manuscript, University of Louisville, 2003. 

 

Tobe, Carol Brenner. “Brenner, Carl Christian.” Louisville Encyclopedia, edited by John E. Kleber and Mary Jean Kinsman. Louisville: University Press of Kentucky, 2001, p. 116.

 

For more information on this artist and work, please contact us.

 

This essay is copyrighted by the Charleston Renaissance Gallery and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission from Hicklin Galleries, LLC.

 

 

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