Important American Paintings - September 2010
Christian Schussele
(Born France, 1824–1879)
Getting Ready for School, 1858
Oil on canvas, 32 × 40 inches
Signed and dated at lower right: "C. Schussele Philada. 1858."
Exhibited: "The Thirty-Fifth Annual Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts," 1858, no. 130.

RS 6534

Born in Alsace, France, Christian Schussele learned lithography and studied drawing with the French neoclassical artist Pierre Narcisse Guérin (1774–1833) at the Academy in Strasbourg. He went to Paris in 1842 and trained with Paul Delaroche (1797–1856) and Adolphe Yvon (1817–1893). He immigrated to the United States around 1848 and settled in Philadelphia, where his future father-in-law, the Alsatian lithographer Caspar Muringer, lived. The chromolithographs that Schussele made while he worked for the noted firm P. S. Duval were widely admired and praised by Britain’s Queen Victoria. He took up painting and began to exhibit at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1851; some of his earliest works were purchased by the Art Union of Philadelphia and won awards at the Franklin Institute. Schussele concentrated exclusively on painting after his historical work Clear the Track achieved public acclaim in 1854 and was engraved by John Sartain (1808–1897). Schussele exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy from 1851 to 1869, at the Great Central Fair in Philadelphia in 1864, at the Boston Athenaeum in 1858 and 1868, and at the Brooklyn Art Association in 1872. He was afflicted with palsy in 1863 and sought a cure in France in 1865. He returned to Philadelphia after an unsuccessful operation in 1868 and, his ability to paint greatly limited, accepted an appointment as superintendent and professor of painting and drawing at the Pennsylvania Academy, positions that he held until his death.1 Schussele died at his son-in-law’s house in Merchantville, New Jersey. Although Schussele is remembered almost exclusively today for having been Eakins’s teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy, his portraits, history subjects, and genre scenes were greatly admired by his contemporaries. He was equally respected as a teacher, and another student, Emily Sartain (1841–1927), commented that "never has a preceptor been more sincerely respected or held more warmly in affectionate regard."2 Getting Ready for School, an outstanding example of Schussele’s popular genre subjects, amply demonstrates his mastery of the French academic style that he had learned in Strasbourg and taught to a generation of students. When the painting was exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1858, it was listed as the property of a William L. Hildeburn of Chestnut Hill who also owned three paintings by James Cameron (1816–1882).


1. For biographical information on Schussele, see Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art [exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art] (Philadelphia, 1976), pp. 358–359.

2. Quoted in Gordon Hendricks, The Life and Works of Thomas Eakins (New York: Grossman, 1974), p. 122.


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