Charles Wimar


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Painter. Known particularly for depictions of the West and its Indian inhabitants, he also painted portraits. Born in Siegburg, near Bonn, Karl (or Carl) Ferdinand Wimar lived in Cologne before emigrating with his family in 1843 to St. Louis, which remained his permanent home. There he worked for about four years with French-born artist Léon de Pomarède (1807–92). After traveling with him up the Mississippi River in 1849, Wimar assisted in painting a panorama depicting the river. The trip encouraged Wimar's interest in wilderness and frontier subjects, as did the Indians he met when they visited St. Louis. Early in 1852 he arrived in Düsseldorf to study at the art academy, where Emanuel Leutze numbered among his teachers. He absorbed the polished, highly realistic style popular there and began to paint dramatic narratives of Indian life, based on his own studies or the published work of others. After his return in 1856, he made several forays west, sketching and collecting Indian artifacts. He also numbered among the first to photograph indigenous western peoples. Characteristically portraying action, such as hunting or warfare (sometimes directed against whites), his tribal paintings nevertheless incorporate exacting details of costume, equipment, and behavior. During these years he also experimented with a softer technique, as in Indians Approaching Fort Union (Washington University Gallery of Art, St. Louis, 1859). Here a majestic, atmospherically rendered sweep of sky and earth envelops the aboriginal travelers, achieving a poetic integration of man and landscape. The year before his death from tuberculosis, he completed the first murals (now largely destroyed) to appear west of the Mississippi, in the dome of the St. Louis courthouse.

Subjects: Art.

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