Werner Drewes (1899 – 1985) American

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Measures: 19×11 inches watercolor on board
Signed lower right “Drewes”
Farhat Art Museum Collection

The son of a Lutheran minister who was interested in archaeology and the natural sciences, WERNER DREWES believed that art provided an avenue to understanding the mysteries of life:
What is the mystery underlying the Architecture of our Universe? What are the laws which create the pattern of the frost which forms on our windows? What causes the stars to stay in their orbit? What is it which creates joy and sorrow within us? . . . All these are problems belonging to the world we live in and which should concern the artist, as well as those problems of sunlight or the growth of a tree. But art is also a world with its own laws, whether they underlie a painting of realistic or abstract forms. . . .
To create new universes within these laws and to fill them with the experiences of our life is our task. . . . When they convincingly reflect the wisdom or struggle of the soul, a work of art is born.[1]
These words, written in 1936, provide a framework for understanding Drewes’s work throughout his life. From his student days, he was fascinated with the formal possibilities of line and color. Yet, he was unwilling to forego the profound expressive potential of thematic motifs. Drewes moved easily between pure abstraction and expressionistic figuration, occasionally using highly energized abstract forms to express powerful emotions, as in his 1934 woodcut series, It Can’t Happen Here.
Following military service in World War I, Drewes studied architecture and design in Berlin and Stuttgart. But he was soon attracted to the experimental freedom and the notion of the unity of the arts associated with the Bauhaus curriculum. In 1921 he enrolled in classes with Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, and Oskar Schlemmer. Unsettled yet as an artist, in 1923 Drewes began several years of world travel, initially to Italy and Spain, where he studied Veronese, Tintoretto, Velazquez, and El Greco. His wanderjahren then took him to Latin America (he had exhibitions in Buenos Aires and Montevideo), the United States, the Orient, and finally, via the trans-Siberia railroad, through Manchuria, Moscow, and Warsaw, back to Germany.
In 1927 Drewes returned to the Bauhaus, which had moved from Weimar to Dessau. But he found that its emphasis, as well as its location, had changed. The rather loose, experimental phase of the school’s early years had yielded to a firmer commitment to design, to the potential for uniting art and technology, and to the artist’s “new” social role in molding society.[2]
In spite of his preference for the earlier days, Drewes resumed his studies with Klee and Schlemmer. He attended Wassily Kandinsky’s weekly painting classes and became close friends with Lyonel Feininger, Moholy-Nagy, and Josef Albers. He left the following year, however, at a time when the Bauhaus was in turmoil. He worked independently and taught, and in 1930, Drewes settled in New York. Kandinsky provided an introduction to Katherine Dreier, an abstract artist and founder of the Societe Anonyme, who immediately began to include Drewes’s work in the group’s exhibitions.[3]
He subsequently taught at the Brooklyn Museum (under the sponsorship of the WPA’s Federal Art Project) and at Columbia University. In 1940 he was appointed director of the WPA’s graphic art division in New York. In 1946, after additional teaching posts at Brooklyn College and at Moholy-Nagy’s Institute of Design in Chicago, Drewes accepted a position at Washington University in St. Louis. He remained there until his retirement in 1965.
The obvious kinship between Drewes’s Pointed Brown and Floating Circles and Kandinsky’s paintings of the mid 1920s is more than a testament of respect from student to master. After a friendship begun at the Bauhaus, Kandinsky became Drewes’s artistic mentor. The two corresponded frequently in the years after Drewes settled in New York, and the young Drewes assisted with Kandinsky’s New York exhibitions. Kandinsky’s letters are filled with news of the Bauhaus, the worsening political situation in Germany, and, when Drewes sent photographs, of reactions to his recent work. Drewes’s frequent practice of painting thinly, which in this painting allows the woodgrained panel to suggest the organic movement of ocean in the sea-green foreground, is an aspect of Drewes’s technique that Kandinsky especially admired.[4]
A founding member of the American Abstract Artists (by one account Drewes showed Arshile Gorky the door when the Armenian immigrant stalked out of an early meeting), Drewes exhibited more frequently in commercial galleries and museum exhibitions than did many of his friends within the group.[5] Drewes often received positive reviews, and his work occasionally won prizes during these difficult years.[6] He remained actively involved during the organization’s early days and provided support and encouragement to his fellow abstract artists.
1. Werner Drewes, “Statement,” in exhibition brochure, 4 Painters: Albers, Dreier, Drewes, Kelpe, Soci_t_ Anonyme traveling exhibition, 1936, in Werner Drewes Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., roll 1498.
2. Peter Hahn, “About Werner Drewes,” in Ingrid Rose, Werner Drewes: A Catalogue Raisonn_ of His Prints (Munich; New York: Verlag Kunstgalerie Esslingen, 1984), p. 21.
3. Drewes subsequently became vice president of the Soci_t_ Anonyme.
4. Wassily Kandinsky, letter to Werner Drewes, 14 March 1932, in Drewes Papers, Archives of American Art, roll 1497: 466-67, translated by Leo R. LeMaire and Mary V. Drach.
5. Ilya Bolotowsky, “Reminiscences about the American Abstract Artists,” 20 June 1966, in Ilya Bolotowsky Papers, Archives of American Art, roll 2787: 288–294.
6. A reviewer of Drewes’s 1939 exhibition at the Artists’ Gallery mentioned the “breadth of scope,” the “clear eloquent color,” and “imaginative designs,” and recommended the show to “anyone who searches for meaning in abstractions. . . .” See “New Exhibitions of the Week,” Art News 37, no. 28 (8 April 1939): 14.
Source: Virginia M. Mecklenburg. “The Patricia and Phillip Frost Collection: American Abstraction, 1930-1945” (Washington, DC: National Museum of American Art and Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989), pp. 9-10.

 

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Artist:Peter Petersen Tofft (1825-1901 ) California / American

Titled: ” Bethany, Palestine”
Signed: lower right & dated 1882
Measures: 10×14.5 inches
watercolor on board
Farhat Art Museum Collection

peter-toft-1825-1901-10x14-5-watwer-color

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Peter Petersen Tofft was active/lived in California, Montana / England, South Africa, Denmark. Peter Tofft is known for landscape, marine, illustrator, historical views.
Born in Kolding, Denmark on May 2, 1825. Toft was educated in his native land. At age 16 he began his travels aboard a whaler and in 1849 sailed into San Francisco Bay aboard the ship Ohio. After unsuccessfully panning for gold around the Trinity River, he returned to San Francisco where he contributed illustrations to Harper’s. While in California, he made many painting excursions to Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. He signed his works in various ways: Tofft, Tufts, Toffts, Toft, and with his monogram, the letter T with a circle drawn around its stem. In 1867 he was in NYC and in 1869 returned to Kolding. In 1870 he settled in London where he remained until his death on Dec. 17, 1901. His watercolors are rare and historically important. Exh: Mechanics’ Inst. Fair (SF), 1864; San Francisco Art Association, 1872-1900; Royal Academy, London. In: Oakland Museum; House of Parliament (Victoria, B.C.); Bancroft Library (UC Berkeley); Montana Historical Society; NMAA.
The following, submitted October 2005, is from Kristine Cummins, who wrote the article for her local newspaper in Napa, California.
Treasure Found At Napa Valley, California Salvation Army

“Nope, Doesn’t Happen to Me”
Rummaging through stacks of tacky art and battered frames in a bin at the local Napa Salvation Army on December 29th, 2004, Karol and her daughter Kristine Cummins found a battered, framed picture of an old town. Looking closely, it appeared to be a watercolor, but they weren’t sure if it was an original. Paintings of old towns wasn’t quite what they were looking for – more like sailing art for a sneaky “While You Were Out” decorating session at brother John’s house. John was happily driving down Baja with his son, while mom and daughter were being mischievous. They thought that the painting could possibly be a nice addition, so they brought it home. Heck, it’s 1/2 off day sale – it’s only $2.50 cents – may as well get it.
As soon as they got home, curiosity got the best of them as they did a double-take. So, as if they were doing precision surgery, they carefully dismantled the paper and wood backing and pulled out the matted art preserved behind glass. At close inspection of the 5 3/4″ x 8 3/4″ painting, they confirmed that it was an original watercolor as some of the pigmentation shown signs of deterioration. Being art lovers and Kristine being a watercolorist, they knew enough to know that this was not an ordinary find. Their intuition was on the way to being confirmed.
In faint cursive handwriting in graphite on the back of the painting read, “View of Barker’s claim and town from the Canadian cabin. Drawn by P. Toft, Cariboo 1863” (See below). Written on the wood backing read, “Cariboo British Colombia, Barker Claim, Barkerville, Williams Creek #25.”
Carrying the belief that, “Nope, It doesn’t happen to me,” attitude, they just sat there staring at it in surprise and asked each other, “What do we do with it now?” Having found an original painting over one hundred and fifty years old, they knew it must have been worth something!

Dutch Artist Sailed His Way to San Francisco
Daughter Kristine disappeared to her computer and dug up bits of gold. It wasn’t much that she could find on the artist, P. Toft, but what she did learn about Toft, made the painting even more fascinating.
He was born in Kolding, Denmark in 1825, and during his youth in Copenhagen, he studied illustration and painting. P. Toft became known as an itinerant artist known for landscapes, genre depictions, topographical and architectural watercolors. At the age of 25, he sailed aboard the ship, “Ohio” and arrived in San Francisco in 1850.
The year Toft landed in the U.S. in 1850, New York city launched the first print magazine. Toft was one of the first illustrators for the magazine covering literature, politics, culture, and the arts. Inspired by the public demand for illustrations of the American Civil War, Harper’s was the first American publication to include illustrations.
While based in San Francisco, he traveled north to Portland, Oregon where he inspired Thaddeous Welch who later became even more well-known than Toft for his landscapes in oil. Toft’s travels drew him north to Washington and Montana where he befriended the governor. He then traveled into British Columbia which now was confirmed that he visited a small gold rush town of Barkerville in 1863.
A couple of years later in 1865 he made his way back down south to where he painted on the Palouse River in Idaho, one of the great Forks of the Columbia River.
In 1868 at the age of 43, he returned to Denmark, and ended up settling in London where he exhibited at the Royal Society every year until 1885. He passed away in London, England at the age of 76 in 1901.
Anyone Home?
Curious about the town that Toft painted, Kristine found a website specifically on Barkerville (www.barkerville.com). She learned that the town of Barkerville thrives off of tourists being a town much like Columbia in California and Virginia City in Nevada. Exuberantly, she contacted the town via the website letting them know she had found a little masterpiece of their gold rush town. Days later, William Quackenbush, Historian and Curator of the Barkerville museum, emailed back with intrigue in addition to sharing in depth, the rich history of Barkerville.

Barker Struck it Rich & Made a Town
The town of Barkerville is 4,200 feet in the Cariboo Mountains and has been operating as a historic site since 1958 by the Province of British Columbia, Canada. Barkerville was the supply town for the goldfields of the Cariboo and was initially set up in 1862 in association with a large find by Billy Barker. The purity of Cariboo gold brought in a premium for the town and the dust on Williams Creek generally brought in $16.50 per ounce. This is quite high when speaking of the relative value of placer gold compare to elsewhere. There is still active hard rock and placer mining in the area, but tourism associated with Barkerville has become the main stay of the local economy. Between May and September after the snow has melted, Barkerville welcomes 100,000 visitors a year. William Quackenbush says quote, “Because the site is primarily owned and operated by the Government, the commercialism that is associated with so many other sites has been kept to a minimum. Barkerville is quite likely the largest site of its type in North America, and also one of the best kept secrets.”

Artist: Walter Francis Brown

Artist: Walter Francis Brown

Artist: Walter Francis Brown (1853 – 1929) American
measures 24” x 18 inches, oil on canvas
Signed, lower left corner “Walter Fr. Brown , Biskra”
Dated: “River Biskra Algeria 1918”
Farhat Art Museum Collection.
Walter Francis Brown was a painter and illustrator whose specialty was scenes of Venice, his adopted home. He studied at Brown University and in Paris with Jean Leon Gerome.
His work can be found at the Hay Library in Providence, Rhode Island. He was an illustrator for ‘A Tramp Abroad’, by Mark Twain, and ‘Roger Williams’, by Charles Miller.
Source:
Peter Falk, “Who Was Who in American Art”