John L. Krimmel. “Home Scene-With Presents/ Returned From Market.” Premium print from The Eclectic. Ca. 1850. Mezzotint, with engraving, by John Sartain. 9 1/2 x 13 3/4. Excellent condition. Naeve, John Lewis Krimmel, #112.
A rare and wonderful American genre print issued around the middle of the nineteenth century. The image was based on a painting by John L. Krimmel (1785-1821), a native of Germany who came to the United States in 1810 and settled in Philadelphia. Krimmel painted portraits and miniatures, but he is particularly well known for his good-natured and elaborate street and domestic scenes. Named by many as the first American genre painter, Krimmel is noted today for his masterful sense of composition and keen portrayal of personalities.
In this print, an agrarian father and mother return from town with presents for all, from grandfather, with his paper, and the babe in arms, with her rattle. Characteristically, the artist fills the scene with many potent details, including farm implements and domestic objects. In a subtle circle, motion travels from the mother in the wagon, to the children on the ground, through their father on the steps, to the grandparents and infant on the porch. Among Krimmel’s wide output of portraits and genre paintings, “Returned From Market” is his first overtly rural scene. Though based in urban Philadelphia, Krimmel was part of a state – and a nation – that were still predominantly rural. It is easy to imagine, then, how this sort of image would capture the American viewer’s fancy. Indeed, its second printing in the 1840s indicates that its appeal was widespread and hinted, as Krimmel scholar Anneliese Harding suggests, at “the power that the mental image of starting anew further West held for most Americans” (Harding, John Lewis Krimmel, 156).
Certainly emblematic of Krimmel’s output, “Returned From Market” also showcases the exceptional mezzotinting of John Sartain, another icon of nineteenth century American art. Though his career peaked years after Krimmel’s, this later issue gave him a chance to improve upon the earlier line engraving, mimicking more closely the painter’s intended sense of light and tone. Lauded as the “father of mezzotint engraving” in the United States, Sartain was the patriarch of a family of artists and engravers that left great impact on the art communities in Philadelphia and, indeed, the United States. An immigrant from England, Sartain built his reputation as a master printmaker with his engravings after such important artists as Thomas Sully, John Neagle, Peter Rothermel, George Caleb Bingham, Emanuel Leutze, F.O.C. Darley, Christian Schussele, and here John L. Krimmel.