Frederick Ferdinand Schafer Painting Catalog

2.7 The art: Comments by others about Schafer's work

[Previous section: Similarities, affinities, and influences]

What others have said

The preceding notes have occasionally quoted comments about Schafer's art made by other observers. Here are several additional such comments, for the record:

  • An unnamed reporter for the (Salt Lake City) Daily Tribune, in an effusive review of an 1891 exhibition there of Schafer's paintings, called attention to "softness of color and delicacy of finish that characterize the work of all great painters."1

  • Another unnamed nineteenth-century art reporter in San Francisco said in 1894 that Schafer's landscapes, "for artistic coloring, blending of light and shade and [perspective] are unexcelled."2 And the unnamed art reporter for the San Francisco Illustrated Wasp commented in 1880 that Mazatlan, "by F. Schafer, is a curious piece of realistic coloring, and reminds one of the old school of Italian painting."3

  • William K. Dick, a San Francisco collector and amateur historian, in a note accompanying a 1970 letter to The Oakland Museum of California4 observes that Schafer often signed his name sloppily, that the paintings are characterized by freshness, good composition and color, and convincing brushwork.

  • Dr. Dwight Miller, Professor of Art at Stanford University, mentions favorably three characteristics of Schafer's style. The first is skill in evoking space and atmosphere by management of bold and effective hue and value juxtapositions, vivacious accents of conifers against sky or distant slope. The second characteristic is exhilarating freshness of brushwork and color. The third is lively variations in style. Miller later expanded on those comments by adding as a fourth characteristic deftness of touch, finely controlled brushwork, fresh, vivid and dramatizing colors. He also commented that Schafer's work is uneven in quality.5

  • Dr. Franz Stenzel, a Portland collector of western U.S. art, reinforces Miller's observation that Schafer's work can be very uneven in quality, and adds that Schafer chooses colors suitable for the region depicted.6

  • Donald Brewer, Fresno photographer and exhibition curator, comments that Schafer's "paintings are perhaps the most modern of his contemporaries, and similar to the work of Harvey Otis Young. Their brushwork is loose and sensitive, yet sure of touch, while his colors are sensuous and reminiscent of Courbet."7

  • Dr. William H. Gerdts, Professor of Art History at the City University of New York, describes Schafer's work as being in a broader style and with more vivid colors than that of von Perbandt.8, 9
[Next section: Brushwork, detail, finish, and drawing]


1. A similarly effusive review appeared in (Salt Lake City) The Herald the same day, leading to a suspicion that the source of these reviews may have been a press release written by Schafer's auctioneer or perhaps even by Schafer himself. One must be wary of newspaper art reviews that lack a by-line, as they may actually be lightly edited press releases. A particularly notable example is the "Positively Meritorious Points" press release, versions of which appeared in newspapers in several different California cities in 1886 and 1887.

2. See "Handsome Paintings at the Fair", San Francisco Evening Bulletin.

3. See the excerpts of "The Art Gallery at the Mechanics' Fair", (San Francisco) The Illustrated Wasp.

4. Letter of November 17, 1970, from William K. Dick to the The Oakland Museum of California. In the Frederick Ferdinand Schafer file of the Archives of California Art.

5. The first three characteristics were mentioned in Miller's extensive catalog for the 1975-76 exhibition California Landscape Painting, 1860–1885. He extended his observations in the unpublished manuscript Miller, Dwight C., California Landscape Painting, 1860–1885 that grew out of that exhibition.

6. From the notes for the 1963 exhibition catalog An Art Perspective of the Historic Pacific Northwest, page 22.

7. From the unpaginated introduction to the 1976 exhibition catalog Pack-In Painters of the American West.

8. From the encylopedic Gerdts, William H., Art Across America, page 249.

9. A further comment by Trenton and Hassrick concerning Schafer's painting style is quoted in the section on Brushwork, detail, finish, and drawing.

Title list
Other lists
Help About the Artist Copyright Notice Schafer Catalog Home Page
Comments, corrections, or questions:
Mar 10, 2024, 11:47 MDT Accessibility