Samuel L. Schmucker: The Discovery of His Lost Art

 

This website was created to promote the publication of 250 high-quality limited edition sets of 86 Samuel L. Schmucker postcards. Content is from the site's 2004-2007 archived pages.

 

Schmucker
"A NEW BOOK by Jack Davis and Dorothy Ryan"
This is the first book written about Samuel L. Schmucker, and the first time his original artwork 
has been shown. The book contains more than 150 full color illustrations including 43 unpublished, 
unknown Schmucker images for the Detroit Publishing Company, circa 1905-06.

Samuel Loren Schmucker was born on February 20, 1879 in Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania and died unexpectedly of heart failure on September 4, 1921, at Southold, Long Island. His one great passion was art and his right (dominant) arm had been crippled from polio in childhood. He enrolled at the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia in drawing from 1896-97, and still life painting from 1898-99. He then studied under the famous American artist and teacher Howard Pyle at the Howard Pyle Institute at Drexel from 1899-1900. Pyle's students become some of the most important and successful American artists of the early 20th century, including Maxfield Parrish (see note below), Jessie Willcox Smith, N. C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, andStanley Arthurs, among others.

Schmucker is recognized by most deltiologists as the best American postcard artist from the Golden Age of postcards, c1898-1915. He is best known as the creator of the "Schmucker Girl" published by the Detroit Publishing Company (DPC), © 1907, and the "Winsch Girl" published by the John Winsch Publishing Company (Winsch), c1909-1915. He also contributed several sketches, sometimes on a daily basis, for the fashion section of the Philadelphia Daily Press, c1906. He was influenced by fashion artist Katharine Vaughn Holden in the faces of the women, their postures, and the use of Japanese lanterns. This influence carried over to his postcard designs for both the DPC and Winsch, and for other companies he did work for after 1915 until his death in 1921.

Samuel L Schmucker

Eighty-eight original Schmucker watercolor paintings were discovered in Montana and Utah in 1995-96. This collection of paintings, along with paintings by other artists, had been in storage for almost a century in the basement of an old brewery in Montana. These paintings were acquired by the DPC, c1905-06, and about half were published as postcards in 1907. Schmucker's paintings is the largest collection of original postcard art from the Golden Age in the world. Included in this collection are forty-three Schmucker images that have never been published. These new, unknown images are some of Schmucker's most beautiful designs and are an important addition to Schmucker's known work.

Schmucker was influenced by his teacher Howard Pyle, but he established his own independent style of painting. Two other artists who influenced his work were Aubrey Beardsley and Gustav Klimt . Schmucker's designs for the DPC were published near the end of the art nouveau movement, c1910. Schmucker was a rare American art nouveau painter and designer. His style is unique and reflects a transition from the early art nouveau period of Beardsley and Klimt to a more modern and realistic style suggested by Pyle.

Schmucker lived and worked in Philadelphia from the turn of the century through c1910. He established a studio in Philadelphia in 1906 at 727 Walnut Street. Samuel and Katharine Rice met when she was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1902-04. The couple relocated to Katharine's home town of Wilmington, DE from 1910 through 1914. Although no marriage certificate has been located, it is presumed that they were married by the time they moved in with Katharine's father, Edwin L. Rice, at 307 West 12th Street. Edwin was a noted architect in Wilmington who designed many of the prominent buildings in that city during his career. Schmucker moved to New York City by 1914, near the end of the Golden Age of postcards. He is listed in the New York City directories as living at 129 West 45th Street, off Times Square, in a district heavily populated by artists. From 1915 until his death, Samuel copyrighted some 130 designs for the National Art Company, 235 West 23rd Street, New York. He also hand-painted boxes for the Mirror Candy Company, later bought by Whitman's. Schmucker also designed postcards for Tuck and Sons, London, and Whitney Publishing Company, New York.

A more detailed account of Schmucker's biography and artwork can be found in Samuel L. Schmucker: The Discovery of His Lost Art (see link below). The limited edition postcards have captions on the back of each card that discuss the paintings and Schmucker's life. Samuel Schmucker was a painter and artist of extraordinary talent, who overcame the most serious handicap for an artist, polio of the right (dominate) arm. He studied and associated with some of the best American artists of his time under Howard Pyle, including Maxfield Parrish (see note below) and Jessie Willcox Smith. His original art, which survived for almost a century in the basement of an old Montana brewery, offers uncontested evidence that Samuel Schmucker could have, and should have, taken his place among the other fine American artists of the early 20th century. Perhaps this book and postcards, which present his original art for the first time, will help resuce Samuel from obscurity.

Note: The July 2006 edition of Art + Auction reviewed the Spring 2006 sale of American Paintings in New York City (p. 72). Maxifled Parrish's 1922 painting Daybreak sold at Christie's for a record price of $7,632,000. Another Parrish, The Lantern Bearers, 1908 sold for $4,272,000. Daybreak, an oil on board, was commissioned by the House of Art, a New York publishing firm, for the express purpose of being reproduced as a color lithograph and was sold to the public by the thousands. The significance of the season's two most expensive pictures (including Norman Rockwell's 1945 Saturday Evening Post cover Homecoming Marine at $9,200,000) having been painted for mechanical reproduction is worth pondering, but at the very least, according to New York dealer Debra Force, "it puts the work of American illustrators on a whole new level."

 

Samuel Schmucker is considered the preeminent artist from the "Golden Age of the Picture Postcard" (1898-1915).
This exhibition includes his rare original paintings, selected postcard sets and related ephemera from the collection of Jack & Susan Davis.

Samuel L. Schmucker: The Golden Age of Postcards
Reading Public Museum
Reading, Pennsylvania
January 22 – May 30, 2005

Historical Society of Berks County
Reading, Pennsylvania
January 23 – May 30, 2005 Samuel L. Schmucker is considered the preeminent American postcard artist from the "Golden Age" of postcards (circa 1898–1915).
The Reading Public Museum exhibited 86 Schmucker paintings discovered in Montana from the private collection of Susan and Jack Davis.

 

"LIMITED EDITION POSTCARDS"

  • 86 Postcards (in 12 custom envelopes)
  • 250 Limited Edition Sets Published
  • NOTE: Fewer than 100 Sets available as of May 1, 2007
  • $350 / Set
  • (Plus $12.50 Shipping and Insurance)

We recently completed a two-year project of publishing 250 high-quality limited edition sets of 86 Samuel L. Schmucker postcards. These postcards are reproduced directly from the original watercolor paintings in our personal collection. The paintings date c.1905-06. This limited edition collection celebrates the centennial of Schmucker's work for the Detroit Publishing Company (DPC). The vintage postcards were first offered for sale in 1907 by the DPC and are some of the most valuable American postcards every published.

This is a unique and important collection of postcards of Schmucker's lost artwork. We have made every effort to publish the finest and most collectible postcards possible. The postcards and the custom envelopes are printed with a 5th run of gold ink to highlight the gold Schmucker used to accent his paintings. We have used the very finest quality 15pt paper stock for this production.

 

Different sets of paintings

IMAGE: sets-of-paintings.jpg

SLS
Schmucker's six paintings in the Mottoes set illustrate poetic stanzas by English Romantic poets and are strongly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite artists of the 19th century, especially Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Rossetti's paintings and poetry are highly symbolic and detailed, and his artwork is rich in romanticism, symbolism, mythic imagery, and exhibits a deep nostalgia for an ideal medieval world. Chivalry inspired much of Rossetti's work, and that theme is evident in these paintings by Schmucker. The painting at right is by Byron. The other poets whose works are illustrated in the Mottoes are Rossetti, Shakespeare, Moore, Coleridge, and Herrick. fine art
 
Schmucker
art The Drinkers paintings show women with six different drink glasses; Martini, Manhattan, Claret, Sherry, Crème de Menthe, and Champagne, at left. All of these paintings are signed SLS. Schmucker painted over his pencil drawing with gouache, watercolor, and ink. He used opaque watercolor to highlight the glass and stem. His pencil sketches are visible and can been seen near the base of the glass in the Champagne painting. This set, and especially this image, may have been influenced by a postcard of a girl in a cocktail glass by Raphael Kirchner, a well-known Austrian postcard artist. The women in this set appear as dancers, like the women in The Masks set.

 

winsch
prints The Mermaid's Lovers depict women underwater with sea life. Schmucker wroteJapanese Globe Fish on the back of the painting at left. The paintings in this set are similar to The Water Birds and The Land Birds, and are some of the most beautiful images Schmucker submitted to the Detroit Publishing Company, circa 1905-06. The fish and crustacea in the foreground of these paintings are very realistic and lifelike. The Pre-Raphaelites emphasized precise, almost photographic representation of nature and objects, particularly those in the immediate foreground that has traditionally been left blurred, or in the shade. The women in The Mermaid's Lovers wear hair ornaments from the sea, yet another influence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

 

Samuel L. Schmucker
The Smoker's Dreams is a set of six fantasy images of women's heads in clouds of tobacco smoke. Several postcards and postcard sets relating to women and smoking were published during the Golden Age of Postcards, circa 1898-1915. These paintings by Samuel L. Schmucker are similar in many respects to the next set, The Drinkers. Smoking and drinking are both related to escapism and fantasy, and these two sets of postcards may have been published to compliment each other. Seven known, published paintings by Schmucker, including four in this set, have not been found. The missing paintings presumably were purchased in Yellowstone National Park by tourists in 1936. The story of how Schmucker's paintings came to Montana, and the images of the missing paintings, are in this book. art nouveau
 
illustrators
folklore The Peacock at left in The Land Birds set is one of Schmucker's most beautiful images. He used gouache, watercolor, and gold and black ink over pencil to create his paintings. The peacock motif was made popular by Whistler's Peacock Room, 1876-77. American artist James McNeill Whistler had a fascination with Japanese art, and brought many of his paintings and prints to England. His role in English appreciation of Japanese art culminated in his work on the Peacock Room for Frederick Leyland. Will Bradley and Louis Rhead, two early American Art Nouveau artists, designed posters with stylized peacocks in 1895-96. The other paintings in The Land Birds are a woman's head with a raven, owl, stork, parrot, and turkey. The Land Birds paintings may have been meant to be reproduced as fine-art chromolithographic prints and not as smaller-format postcards.
 

  ABOUT

Samuel Loren Schmucker

(1879 Reading, PA -1921 Long Island, NY)
Schmucker overcame the challenge of crippling polio to study drawing and painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1896-99) and at the Howard Pyle Institute at Drexel (1899-1900). His classmates and associates included Maxfield Parrish, Jessie Willcox Smith, Frank Schonover, Stanley Arthurs, and N. C. Wyeth, among others.  By 1905, he established himself as a commercial artist.  In addition to creating postcard images, he supported himself making pen and ink sketches for the fashion plates printed in the Philadelphia Daily Press. For almost 10 years, Schmucker’s work was printed by two of the largest postcard publishers in the United States–the Detroit Publishing Company and the John Winsch Company. 

Whether fully signed with his name, or just his SLS initials, Schmucker's illustrations are among the most distinctive in postcard art.  His wife Katherine was the model for his distinctive wide-eyed women on many of his postcards.  He created many holiday postcard series for publisher John Winsch, including Halloween, Christmas, New Year, Valentine's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and St. Patrick's Day. When the postcard craze subsided, he found new ways to earn a living, including hand-painting candy boxes, designing candy labels, working as an accountant and opening an advertising agency.  He died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 42.

Samuel L. Schmucker: The Golden Age of Postcards is a joint exhibition between the Reading Public Museum and The Historical Society of Berks County. The exhibition at the Reading Public Museum, which runs January 22 - May 30, 2005, features recently discovered art by Reading artist, Samuel L. Schmucker (1879-1921). Schmucker emerged as one of the leading commercial art designers of postcards in the era from 1895 through 1915, widely regarded as the "Golden Age of Postcards." Within his brief career Schmucker combined the design elegance of Art Nouveau style with the rich color palette of the Pre-Raphaelite artists, bringing a unique, artistic vision to a popular art form. (left: Samuel L. Schmucker: Peacock Land Bird)

Ron Roth, Director and CEO of the Museum states, "This special collaboration between the Reading Public Museum and the Berks County Historical Society will provide the public with a window into the art and history of a unique era in American popular art. The discovery of the work of this talented and little known Reading artist is a significant addition to the Berks County art heritage."

The exhibition at The Historical Society of Berks County, which runs January 23 - May 30, 2005, features other types of artwork by Samuel Schmucker including paintings and Reading High School yearbook covers. There will also be three dimensional personal objects once belonging to Schmucker including vases and dishes from the collection of Daisy and Dede Schaeffer. In addition to the Schmucker objects, the exhibit will also highlight the comic postcards of Clint Shilling, Schmucker postcards and postcards with local scenes from the collection of Merritt's Museum of Childhood, Anne and Roseanne Darrah, Douglassville, PA; antique postcards from 1893 to the present from the collection of Dennis Becker, postcard collector and Berks Postcard Club; and Schmucker postcards from Donald Brown, Founder, Institute of American Deltiology, Myerstown, PA.

Harold Yoder, Executive Director of The Historical Society of Berks County comments, "This is our opportunity to show everyone the artistic genius of this Reading artist through his work of designing postcards worldwide. We are also pleased to be able to join with the Reading Public Museum to make this exhibit possible to showcase this very skilled Reading artist."

Samuel Lorne Schmucker's postcard images are some of the finest from the "Golden Age of the Postcard." His fanciful images, with their intense colors and expert designs, have long captivated postcard collectors. Schmucker's wife Katharine Rice Schmucker was the model for his distinctive wide-eyed woman on many of his postcard designs. His brightly colored images of women in nature show the artistic milieu of the time. Although collectors have esteemed his work for years it is only recently that scholars discovered Schmucker to be the artist behind the pictures.

Schmucker was born in Reading, Pennsylvania and during his childhood, a bout with polio partially paralyzed his right arm. This forced him to hold his brushes or pencils in a claw-like grip between his second and index fingers. This disability did not detract from his draftsmanship and by the time he was 14 his art was well known in Reading, PA. Eager to learn more, he left Reading in 1896 to get professional training in Philadelphia, PA. He studied drawing and still life at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and then transferred to the Howard Pyle Institute at Drexel where he studied alongside Maxfield Parrish and Jessie Wilcox Smith. The Pyle Institute concentrated on practical illustration, and although he only took classes from Pyle for one year, this noted illustrator's influence can be seen in all of Schmucker's paintings.

By 1905, Schmucker had established himself as a commercial artist. In addition to creating postcard images, he supported himself making pen and ink sketches for the fashion plates printed in the Philadelphia Daily Press. For almost 10 years, Schmucker's work was printed by two of the largest postcard publishers in the United States -- the Detroit Publishing Company and the John Winsch Company. In 1995-96, collectors Jack and Susan Davis discovered 88 of his original paintings, submitted to the Detroit Publishing Company in the early 1900s, in estate sales in Montana and Utah. (right: Samuel L. Schmucker: Toad Fish)

These works, on loan from Jack and Susan Davis, comprise the exhibit at the Reading Public Museum. The paintings and selected postcard sets represent one of the first times the work of this little known Berks County artist have been shown to the public.

As the postcard craze receded Schmucker found new ways to earn a living including hand-painting candy boxes, designing candy labels, working as an accountant and opening an advertising agency. Between 1915 and 1921 he sold approximately 130 postcard designs to the National Art Company. In 1921, Schmucker's career was cut short when he unexpectedly died from a heart attack at age 42.

Samuel L. Schmucker: The Golden Age of Postcards is underwritten by the Friends of the Reading Museum and the Widgeon Foundation and supported in part by grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

 

 


Schmucker
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Susan and Jack Davis
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