Ferdinand Richardt • American (1819-1895)
Niagara Falls C: 1856 • Oil on Canvas 18-1/4" x 24-1/2"
Canton Museum of Art Permanent Collection • Purchased by the Canton Museum of Art, 45.5
Wish you were here! Ferdinand Richardt took both America and Europe on a scenic tour during the second half of the nineteenth century. If not a travel agent, he was certainly a well-trained set of eyes intrigued by the scenic beauty too far away to visit. During a time when the art world was moving toward more interpretive and abstract designs, he kept both feet in the real world. And, what a world it was.
His early art captured the beauty of European manor houses and castles, in minute detail. However, by his mid-30s he became intrigued with a place little known in Europe. Niagara Falls.
Journeying to America, he set out to see the magnificent falls for himself. For 5 summers he viewed them from every possible angle, making quick sketches and drawings of topographical details. Then, as the fall air turned cold, he returned his New York City studio and created large paintings that brought the majesty and beauty of Niagara Falls to life. In total he created over 100 such paintings between 1855 and 1859 when the outbreak of Civil War drove him back to his native Denmark.
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Back in Copenhagen he created an instant family when he married the widow Sophia Schneider, adopted her son, Joose, and fathered a daughter, Katherine, with Sophia. All within a single year. Phew.
But, soon, America called again. Richardt and his family emigrated to Niagara Falls, where his American fascination had first begun. Within a few years, though, they pushed west settling around California’s Bay Area where Ferdinand and Sophia stayed the rest of their lives.
By the late 1800s, photography had become more accessible to everyday Americans, but Ferdinand continued to paint finely detailed, realistic works depicting many of the most popular tourist attractions along the Pacific Coast. When he died, hundreds of his drawings and unseen paintings passed to his daughter who also died a short time later. His work disappeared for almost a century until found stored in the home of his step-son’s granddaughter who was unaware of her great-grandfather’s importance to the art world. Many of his paintings were painstakingly restored and scattered among museums in America and Denmark. Among them, the Canton Museum of Art. Come visit soon, and see the world.
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“His real first name was Joachim. His father and brother were Johan, and his mother Johanna. If anyone yelled ‘Jo’ in that house there was mass confusion, so all used middle names.”
“During the traditional luncheon for President Obama’s second Inauguration, a Richardt painting of Niagara Falls was chosen as the featured backdrop.”
“Thousands of his drawings and paintings were lost for over a century until found in the home of his great-granddaughter. Always in the last place you look.”
Art critics of the day found his work to be the most detailed representations they had ever seen. He was a Photo-Realist before there was even photography.”