Christian Mayr

(American born Germany, 1805 - 1851)

The portrait and genre painter Christian Mayr was born in Nuremberg in Bavaria, Germany, and probably studied both with his stepfather, Christian Friedrich Fues (1772-1836), and at the Royal Art Academy in Nuremberg. It is recorded that he was an architectural painter and a lithographer at Nuremberg in 1823, the same year he entered the Royal Academy in Munich. Mayr arrived in New York about 1833. In the same year, he exhibited six paintings at the National Academy of Design. In 1835 he went to Boston, and the following year he went to the South; Mayr finally settled in South Carolina. In 1838 he became an American citizen in Charleston, where he resided until 1843. While there he also ventured into the field of daguerreotype photography, advertising “whole length likenesses” on February 13, 1843. In 1844 he went to New Orleans but returned to New York the next year, where he remained until his death. Although Mayr painted portraits to earn his living, he is best remembered for his genre scenes depicting humorous events of everyday life in America. His best-known painting is a large canvas of black people dancing in a hotel kitchen, titled Kitchen Ball at White Sulphur Springs, executed in 1838 and now in the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. ¹ Mayr exhibited regularly at the National Academy of Design and was elected an Academician in 1849. Also in New York, he exhibited at the American Academy of the Fine Arts in 1835 and at the Apollo Association in 1839 and 1840. The Apollo Association purchased three of his paintings in 1839, and the American Art-Union bought ten of his works for distribution among its members between 1847 and 1851. His painting Reading the News is in the permanent collection of the National Academy of Design and his work also was exhibited in the Academy’s Centennial Exhibition in 1925. NOTE 1. See Elizabeth Johns, American Genre Painting: The Politics of Everyday Life (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1991), pp.114, 127.