William Charles Anthony Frerichs was born on March 2, 1829, in Ghent, then a part of the Netherlands. He moved to the Hague as a child and entered the Royal Academy at the age of six, where he studied with the landscape painters Andreas Schelfhout and Bartholomeus J. van Hove, each man an important figure in Dutch art in the mid-nineteenth century. After three years of academic study at the University of Leiden, he returned to the Hague to graduate from the academy in 1846. He completed his professional education with training at the Royal Academy in Brussels, and made his Grand Tour of the continent in the late 1840's, traveling to Paris, Rome, and Vienna. His work won prizes in several exhibitions during this time.
Encouraged to pursue his artistic career in the United States, Frerichs left his homeland in 1850 for New York. In 1852 he exhibited a portrait at the National Academy of Design, and was elected to the New York Sketch Club. In 1855, recently married, he moved to Greensboro, North Carolina to take up the duties of Professor of Drawing, Painting, and French at the Greensboro Female College (now named Greensboro College). A fire in 1863 destroyed the college and all of Frerich's paintings which were then in his studio. He taught briefly at Edgeworth Female Seminary, a Presbyterian school also in Greensboro, before becoming art instructor at a Quaker college (now Guilford College) in New Garden, North Carolina. The Confederate Corps of Engineers drafted him to supervise mining in the Sauratown Mountains, an area familiar to him from sketching trips.
During his North Carolina years Frerichs often rambled the Blue Ridge, the Great Smokies, and the Appalachians, doing sketches from which he would draw inspiration for full-size canvases for the remainder of his career. He was one of the first painters to venture into western North Carolina, which in the 1850s and 1860s was sparsely populated. These forests held for Frerichs the promise of the American wilderness, of which he had undoubtedly dreamed as a young painter in Europe.
Soon after the conclusion of the Civil War, the Frerichs family, hard-hit economically, decided to return to the northeast. The artist lived in the New York-New Jersey area for the rest of his life.
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© 2008 Robert M. Hicklin, Jr. Inc.
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