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Speedwell Lake, New Jersey

Not on view

Speedwell Lake, New Jersey

Artist: Johann H. Carmiencke (German, 1810-1867; active United States, after 1851)

Date: c.1864
Medium: Graphite with white gouache and black ink on tan-colored, medium-weight wove paper
Overall: 11 1/2 × 18 3/4in. (29.2 × 47.6cm)
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 89.19
Text Entries

This unsigned sheet was in a collection of approximately sixty drawings and watercolors by Carmiencke that were exhibited at the National Collection of Fine Arts in 1973.(1) Carmiencke was born in Hamburg, Germany, and studied art in Dresden with Johan Christian Dahl, the Norwegian-born landscape painter who had close ties with Denmark’s artistic community Possibly at Dahl’s urging, Carmiencke left Dresden in 1834 to continue his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, following the example of other north German artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, Philipp Otto Runge, and George Friedrich Kersting.(2)

Carmiencke had considerable success in Copenhagen and eventually became a court painter to King Christian VIII of Denmark from 1846 until 1851, when he emigrated to America.(3) Ultimately, he settled in Brooklyn, and had at least one student named Frederick W Billing, in whose family the MWPI drawing descended.(4) Carmiencke was a relatively active contributor of North American and European landscape paintings to exhibitions between Baltimore and Boston and as far west as Chicago. He also exhibited in upstate New York in Troy, and at the very end of his life at least three of his New York State scenes were exhibited at the Utica (N.Y.) Art Association.(5)

During the nearly two decades that Carmiencke lived in the United States he made landscape drawings in Quebec and Niagara, in the Adirondack, Catskill, and Shawangunk mountains, and in the Mohawk and Hudson river valleys. Although there is no identifying inscription on the MWPI sheet, the steamboat depicted in the picture suggests that it was probably made in one of these areas on a river or large lake. The sheet was not dated, but its dimensions are nearly identical to another, Bolton’s Landing, Lake George, which Carmiencke made in 1864.(6)

In drawing the MWPI sheet, Carmiencke used thick and thin graphite lines to delineate and hatch most of the elements of the composition. The highlights in the fore—ground and the clouds above the mountains were made with white gouache, while the shadows were toned with ink. The precision with which Carmiencke executed this fully realized drawing confirms Theodore E. Stebbins’s remark that his draftsmanship sometimes approached the level achieved by Frederic E. Church.(7)


1. Flint, Carmiencke.

2. Kasper Monrad et al., The Golden Age of Danish Painting (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1993), 14.

3. Flint, Carmiencke, [1].

4. Billing came to the United States from Germany around 1856 and painted western landscapes after his move to Salt Lake City in 1879. See William H. Gerdts, Art across America: Two Centuries of Regional Painting, 1710-1920 (New York: Abbeville Press, 1990), 3: 288, and Doris Ostrander Dawdy, Artists of the American West (Chicago: The Swallow Press, 1981), 2: 28.

5. James L. Yarnall and William H. Gerdts, Index to American Art Exhibition Catalogues (Boston: G. K. Hall and Co., 1986), 1: 586-88.

6. Flint, Carmiencke, checklist no. 47.

7. Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., American Master Drawings and Watercolors: A History of Works on Paperfrom Colonial Times to the Present (New York: Harper and Row, 1976), 130.


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