This week’s work of art is by John Lewis Krimmel. He was born in Germany, but emigrated to the U.S. in 1809 to join his brother in Philadelphia. Instead of joining the family business, he took up painting and became well-known for his genre paintings depicting everyday life in the city of brotherly love. One of his most well-known paintings was “The Village Tavern,” painted between 1813-14.
The painting is also sometimes called “In An American Inn,” and just from searching around, it appears their may be more than one of them, as there seem to be various references to both that are very, very similar, but not quite exactly the same, with slightly different colors and with the size of what’s depicted more or less, as if Krimmel painted the exact same scene more than once.
Perhaps most curiously, apparently the painting was used by prohibitionists as propaganda. “The depiction of a mother and daughter trying to persuade the drunken father to come home has caused historians of the temperance movement to praise In an American Inn as the first work of an American artist to illustrate this issue.” But that interpretation does not seem obvious to me. Nothing in the woman or the child’s demeanor suggests to me that they’re trying to persuade the man of anything. And the man is raising his glass to her with a smile on his face. And nobody else around them seems particularly alarmed by them being there. In fact, many people in the tavern don’t seem to be paying them any mind whatsoever, as if their presence is not so unusual. It just looks an old-fashioned scene from the TV show Cheers, with several groups in the inn.
And the Winterthur Library has two early drawings that would eventually become the painting, done in ink and ink wash over pencil.
They contain all the elements of the finished work, but you can see the artist trying out different placements for the characters in the painting.
You can read Krimmel’s biography at Wikipedia or at Terra. There are links to more Krimmel resources at the ArtCyclopedia. You can also see more of his work at the Art Renewal Center, Scholar’s Resource, the Philadelphia Academy and the American Gallery.