John Lewis Krimmel

(American born Germany, 1786 - 1821)

John Lewis Krimmel, the founder of the genre movement in American art, portrays himself with the family of his brother George in this scene of intimate domesticity. George, a merchant, was ten years older than John, and had sailed with his family from Europe to Philadelphia in 1807. John came in 1809, at the age of twenty-three, to accept his brother’s invitation to join his business and household.¹ Within a year of his arrival in Philadelphia, John had become a professional artist. His sketchbooks at the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum reveal his fascination with a city that differed dramatically from his memories of London, Stuttgart, and especially the half-timbered houses of Ebingen, a village in the southwestern European duchy of Württemberg. John Lewis, who anglicized his name form Johann Ludwig, was born there in 1786. His father died when he was ten and his mother when he was seventeen. During some of these years, George aided him by sending money.² Perhaps it was for education, because the first historian of American art, William Dunlap, reports that Krimmel received training in Stuttgart from the court painter to the duke of Württemberg, Johann Baptist Seele (1774-1814). He may have been instructed in portraiture, because it was this that launched John’s American career and, combined with teaching art, would remain a source of income.³ Krimmel lived the rest of his life in Philadelphia, except for an extended European trip from late 1816 to probably late 1818. When he returned, printmakers began publishing his drawings and paintings, and Philadelphians commissioned from him a large scene of William Penn landing in America. However, Krimmel died by accidental drowning in 1821 before it could be finished. NOTES 1. Milo M. Naeve, John Lewis Krimmel: An Artist in Federal America (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1987), pp. 16-17. 2. Ibid., p. 16. . 3. Ibid., pp. 16, 20, 24-26. . 4. Ibid., p. 23, 26-27. . Adapted from an essay by Milo M. Naeve