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Frederick Ferdinand Schafer Painting Catalog

Painting record FFSd0607

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[photo] [Figures overlooking a wilderness landscape]
Photo credit: Susan Cowan, courtesy of Uno Langmann Limited, Vancouver, B.C.
Date: said to be 1869
Medium: oil on cardboard
Size: 8.125 x 5.75 in (20.6 x 14.6 cm)
Inscription: said to be signed l/r "FS", initials conjoined in a monogram
Verso: l/c "Presented to Mr. Ellis by/F. Schäfer" in script; u/c "1 1/2 in ...best/1 in. Roset patern" in script; also said to be signed on frame "F. Schafer 1869".
Provenance: With Uno Langmann Limited, Vancouver, B.C., in 1999
Description: A relatively detailed oil sketch. In the center, two figures, one seated and one standing, atop a large light grey boulder at the right edge of a river or lake, look across the water toward a series of forested mountain ranges. The seated figure wears blue jeans, a colorful shirt, and a wide-brimmed Stetson hat; the standing figure wears a blue Victorian-length skirt, a white blouse, and a white hat or scarf. The riverbank above the figures is dominated by a tall conifer that extends nearly to the top edge of the picture; behind it is a second conifer nearly as tall, and some broad-leafed brush; more conifers stand in the distance at the right. The foreground river bank is covered with dark boulders overgrown with wild flowers and scattered forest debris. Two snags lie on the slope above the boulders, while two more have fallen down the slope toward the water. The mountain ranges are all non-descript; the sky is covered with grey clouds. (From a color photograph.)
Note: The reported date precedes Schafer's first known appearance in the United States by five years, which suggests that this painting might have been done in Europe, perhaps in the Alps. The umlauted "a" in the presentation inscription lends some support to this interpretation. However, several things in the picture and its inscription undermine this interpretation. 1) The several downed snags and other ground forest debris are not characteristic of European forest settings, which peasants have picked over for firewood for thousands of years. 2) The blue jeans and Stetson hat of the figure on the left are typically American clothing (Levi Strauss began making blue jeans in California in 1850 and John Stetson began making ten-gallon hats in Philadelphia in 1865, so the clothes are consistent with the date.) 3) The verso inscriptions, despite some spelling problems, are in English, not German. 4) The upper verso inscription, in the same hand as the lower one, appears to be instructions for the framer, suggesting that the frame was added after the inscriptions. The date, being on the frame, was probably added after the inscriptions. These contradictions remain unexplained.
Identification: Assigned, descriptive title.

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Jan 28, 2004, 18:05 EST Comments, corrections, or questions: Saltzer@mit.edu