Adolph-Ulric Wertmuller

(American born Sweden, 1751 - 1811)

Wertmüller began his studies in painting at the Art Academy in his native Stockholm with Lorentz Pasch the Younger (1733 1805), but in 1772 he moved to Paris. He studied first with his cousin, Alexander Roslin (1718 1793), an established portraitist in the French capitol, and then with Roslin’s friend, the influential French painter, Joseph Marie Vien (1716 1809) ¹ . Vien became head of the French Academy in Rome, Wertmüller followed him and studied the great works of antiquity, honed his perspective skills and began to produce large-scale canvases. Returning to Paris in 1779, Wertmüller’s growing success in portraiture and history painting attracted the attention of King Gustaf III of Sweden. Although Wertmüller remained in Paris, he was elected to the Swedish Academy and was named the King’s “First Painter.” In 1784 Wertmüller was elected to the French Royal Academy, and in 1785 he exhibited his large portrait, Queen Marie Antoinette Walking in the Trianon Park with Two of Her Children, (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm). Despite his honors, Wertmüller did not find commissions forthcoming in Paris, and in 1788 he left for Bordeaux, where his skills as a portraitist were in greater demand and where he enjoyed significant financial success. In 1790 Wertmüller sought professional opportunities in Spain unsuccessfully, in 1794 he availed himself of an opportunity to travel to America. Wertmüller may have been the most well trained artist to arrive on American shores in the 1790s, and his artistic abilities were readily acknowledged upon his arrival in Philadelphia. By December 1794 he had painted several members of Congress as well as President Washington² . His interest in the Philadelphia art community and the creation of America’s first art academy, the Columbianum, is attested to by his signature on documents relating to the creation of that organization. In 1803 Wertmüller retired to Naaman’s Creek on the banks of the Delaware River dedicating himself to farming. NOTES 1.Wertmüller’s earliest training was in drawing and sculpture with Pierre Hubert Larcheveque (1721 1778). Franklin D. Scott, Wertmüller, Artist and Immigrant Farmer (Chicago: Swedish Pioneer Historical Society, 1963), p .2. 2.For a list of Wertmüller’s works executed in Philadelphia between 1794 96, see Michael Benisovich, “Wertmüller et son livre de raison intitulé la ‘Notte,’” Gazette des Beaux Arts, ser. 6, vol. 48 (July August 1956), pp. 58-60. Adapted from an essay by Carol Eaton Soltis