Richard Lorenz was a German artist who established his career as a painter and illustrator in the United States of America. Often compared to Frederic Remington, Lorenz became most know for his landscapes of the great American West and his depictions of Native Americans and cowboys. His oeuvre consists mainly of panoramic landscape views, the portrayal of horses, and genre scenes.
The artist Richard Lorenz was born in 1858 on a farm near Weimar, Germany. As a young man, Richard was quite proficient with his artistic abilities, studying both sculpture and painting. He was fond of biblical art, and he was interested in the subject of peregrinating. At an early age, his work already grabbed the attention of critics and artists.
At fifteen years old, Lorenz began his artistic education while living near Weimar, possibly at the Grand-Ducal Saxon Art School. While at the academy, he studied under Albert Heinrich Brendel, an influential teacher who was an apprentice to great names in art history, like Filippo Palizzi and Thomas Couture. Brendel's work was focused on the portrayal of animals, especially horse paintings, which could have influenced Lorenz's later work.
Lorenz was also taught by German landscape painter Theodor Joseph Hagen, associated with the Impressionist movement. During this period, he was also Max Thedy's student, a painter, and engraver who by the 1920s became a teacher at the famous Bauhaus. By studying under these masters, Lorenz was able to obtain Academic knowledge but with a Modern flair.
The artist's early production was much praised. Lorenz received many awards for his art, including being prized twice with the most significant title from his institution, the Karl Alexander Prize.
Richard Lorenz's career was quickly growing, and in 1886, by his late twenties, he received the opportunity of a lifetime. The American Panorama Company, lead by William Wehner, was recruiting German painters to move to Wisconsin, especially artists who already worked with biblical themes. Lorenz caused quite an uproar within the American painters of the Milwaukee art community.
Under Wehner's patronage, Lorenz produced artworks like Jerusalem on the Day of Crucifixion and Battles of Atlanta. What is most notable about these works were the dimensions, with some paintings measuring over 300 feet. Panorama paintings are artworks created in massive sizes encompassing a wide view of a landscape, which can have a military, historical, or biblical theme, mostly oil paintings.
The German painter's love for horses continued, and while living in the US, he focused much of his production on portraying them. The next year after arriving in Wisconsin, Lorenz took the opportunity to travel and get to know many breathtaking American landscapes.
From 1887 up until the year 1890, the painter traveled to California, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon resulting in an array of sketches and studies. Also in 1887, Lorenz worked in San Francisco alongside August Lohr, another German painter recruited to create panoramic paintings. He took this time to sketch his surroundings, like the streets of Monterey and Chinatown in California.
While visiting Montana, the artist had the chance to visit the Crow Indian Reservation. Lorenz was moved by the stories of the Sioux Wars and the Battle of Little Bighorn, which inspired him to create his first artworks portraying the Native American people.
Richard Lorenz gained significant recognition around the globe during his career. Although he never achieved as much attention as Remington, the critics mostly compared him to the painter. In 1891, the German artist exhibited his work in Munich, and a decade later, he was accepted in the prestigious Paris Salon.
Throughout his career, Lorenz art was frequently part of exhibits in Chicago, including participating in the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. He was praised by the Society of Western Artists, who often sponsored shows in which he participated. He was noticed by critics and American artists as well. In 1904, Lorenz was part of the extravagant Louisiana Purchase Exposition, most commonly known as the Saint Louis World's Fair.
The American West became Lorenz's most celebrated subject. He was able to capture in his art many aspects of this time in history due to his extensive travels. His sketches and studies resulted in masterpieces like the battle scene entitles The Last Glow of a Passing Nation. Considered one of his best pieces, Burial on the Plains shows another range of emotions and calmness.
The way Lorenz painted the vast and breathtaking scenes of the American West created an almost picture-like quality, but at the same time used loose brushstrokes. This quality was achieved by creating large scale paintings, which can be admired from afar. The painting Cow Punchers is an excellent example of how Lorenz was able to capture the West's vast plains, along with a typical scene of the American cowboy.
In 1900, Lorenz and a group of sculptors and painters came together to create the Society of Milwaukee Artists, later named the Wisconsin Visual Artists. Not only was the German painter one of the founders, but he was also the first to assume the position of vice president. Among this group of artists were Louis Mayer, Alexander Mueller, both native to Milwaukee, and George Peter from Austria.
By the turn of the century, Lorenz passed along his knowledge by giving classes at the Wisconsin School of Art and Design, as well as the Milwaukee Art Student's League.
After suffering for years from cataracts, which nearly made him blind, Richard Lorenz's health became fragile, and he died in August of 1915. He suffered a stroke while near his home in Milwaukee and was buried at the Evergreen Cemetery.
Richard Lorenz's legacy continued far beyond his life as he made genuine contributions to American art. The portrayal of the American West through the eyes of a German artist marked the Wisconsin genre and landscape painting. Although not originally from the USA, Lorenz became one of Milwaukee's most famous artists.