Mosler, Henry

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MOSLER, HENRY (1841–1920), U.S. painter and printmaker. Although in his lifetime Mosler claimed to have been born in America, he had immigrated from Germany at the age of eight with his parents, settling in New York. Two years later the family moved to Cincinnati. For years the Mosler family led a peripatetic life, living in several places, including Nashville, Tennessee, where Mosler received his first art instruction from a lithographer (1853) and again in Cincinnati (1859–1863), where he studied with a genre and portrait painter named James Henry Beard, whose subject matter and straightforward storytelling style on canvases comprised of small-scale figures influenced Mosler's early imagery. By 1860 Mosler had his own studio. During the Civil War, Mosler worked as an artist-correspondent for Harper's Weekly, which published 34 of his drawings. These images show battle as well as the daily life of soldiers. Later, three paintings explored war themes.

In 1863 Mosler began studying in Duesseldorf, Germany, a celebrated artistic center attractive to several American artists. Mosler's schooling in Germany strengthened his propensity for genre scenes and recording the intimate details of his subjects. Six months of study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris completed Mosler's extended training. The nomadic pattern of his youth brought Mosler back to Cincinnati from 1866 to 1874, where Reform Judaism began to gain prominence under the guidance of Isaac Mayer *Wise. Mosler painted Plum Street Temple (c. 1866, Skirball Museum, Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati), a canvas delineating the exterior of Wise's temple, Bene Yeshurun. A reproduction of the painting adorned the cover of the musical score "Progress March" a year later. Portraits commissioned by the Jewish community include a likeness of Wise's wife Therese Bloch Wise (c. 1867, Skirball Museum, Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati).

After eight years of living in cities in the United States, Mosler returned to Europe, continuing his studies at various times. He contributed entries to the French Salon from 1878 to 1897; his 1879 entry received honorable mention and was purchased for the Musée du Luxembourg, making the canvas the first by an American artist to be bought by the French government. Mosler began visiting Brittany in 1878, at which time he made paintings of Breton peasants, a subject that preoccupied his art until the 1890s. He meticulously recorded Breton dress, customs, and domestic interiors, and he painted wedding traditions on several occasions, including The Wedding Feast (c. 1892, collection unknown), shown at the 1892 Paris Salon. Returning permanently to the United States in 1894, Mosler lived in New York and painted scenes from American colonial history and genre works, employing a similar formula of attention to details and extensive research.


B.C. Gilbert, Henry Mosler Rediscovered: A Nineteenth-Century Jewish-American Artist (1995); B.M. Foley, "Henry Mosler: Figure Drawings for Narrative Paintings," in: American Art Review, 8 (1996), 100–3.

[Samantha Baskind (2nd ed.)]

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Mosler, Henry

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