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Bernhard Schneider: From Lens to Brush 
September 3 - November 16, 2014

Cedarburg’s Bernhard Schneider: From Lens to Brush is the Cedarburg Art Museum’s most ambitious undertaking to date.  The German-born, master landscape painter came to Milwaukee in 1885 for the burgeoning panorama painting industry that was providing a new phenomenon of entertainment in rotunda buildings.  When that industry faded by the early 1890s, Schneider came to live in Cedarburg so he could practice his landscape painting in a more bucolic setting.


This comprehensive exhibition integrates the 19th century artist’s paintings of Cedarburg gathered from private collectors and public museums, never-before shown artist photographs from a recently The Groth Family Collection, and newly translated diary entries from one of the German-born panorama painters.  Related activities during the exhibition will invite visitors to experience Cedarburg’s artistic heritage in a new way. 

Bernhard Schneider:  Landscapist for Panoramas

Born in Lüneburg, Germany in 1843, Bernhard Schneider was trained in landscape painting in Munich and later in Düsseldorf under Oswald Aschenbach.  In 1885 Schneider came to the USA to work for the American Panorama Company in Milwaukee, recruited along with other mostly German artists by the founder and owner of the company, Werner Wehner.   Schneider specialized as a landscape painter on enormous panoramic canvases that would tour the United States for entertainment purposes. 

According to Heine’s diary entries, Schneider and other artists made trips to Chattanooga and Atlanta to sketch the terrain that would form the backdrop for the large, circular paintings that created entertainment scenes for such then-popular Civil War topics as “The Storming of Missionary Ridge” and “The Battle of Atlanta.”  Each of these subjects was painted twice by the Milwaukee artists, drawing large crowds to the Milwaukee and Chicago showings.  In addition, artists went to Jerusalem to sketch scenes that became “The Crucifixion” and “Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem” panoramas.   According to Porter Butts’ seminal 1936 Art in Wisconsin, Schneider was considered by his contemporaries as the most able landscape artist of his time.

Schneider Catches the Photo Fever:

Heine diary entries in October 1887 reveal that Schneider bought his first camera from fellow artist George Peter for $40, or  about $1,010 in 2014 dollars.  At this time, translator of Heine diaries Michael Kutzer writes that after all his grousing about other artists spending time with photography, Schneider has now caught the photo fever.  Several days later, the diary indicated that a dark room was installed at the panorama studio.  In diary entries of March 1888, Heine and Schneider were collaborating in photography and Schneider reportedly had the ability to develop photos in his apartment.   

Schneider’s photos in the recently discovered Groth Family Photography Collection show his ongoing interest in landscapes, especially in the pastoral areas near Cedar Creek, sometimes referred to as the Milwaukee River.  While Schneider was known to go out sketching every morning, he returned to his studio in the late morning and spent afternoons painting in the studio as well.  Photographs could serve the same purpose as sketches for providing the foundation for paintings, as many correlations in this exhibition show.  Other photographs tell us about  life in a bygone era, especially at  Schneider’s favorite spot, Hilgen’s Spring Park, the Cedarburg resort popular for its natural attractions for visitors from Milwaukee, Chicago, and beyond.  

Schneider’s Cedarburg Years

Heine diary entries in July 1889 reveal that Schneider fell ill and wanted to go to Cedarburg for recovery.  Schneider had a connection with someone named Friedmann in Cedarburg.  It was likely Julius Friedmann, a well respected restauranteur in Milwaukee, who was also hired to manage Hilgen Spring Park in Cedarburg in 1889.  Diary entries in the third week in October 1889 indicate Schneider returned to Milwaukee from Cedarburg where he was spoiled for 9 weeks with milk and eggs.  By late 1889 the panorama industry in Milwaukee was unraveling with business owner Wehner borrowing panorama funds for other investments in Texas and California, and failing to pay his artists in Milwaukee.  Some panorama artists headed back to Germany; others sought private commissions.  Some moved elsewhere in North America.  While diary entries reveal Schneider was back in Milwaukee in the winter of 1890, he may have started to spend more time in Cedarburg  after the panorama business waned.



This is the backside of the Carl & Emma Bauer home on the corner of Spring  Street & Hilbert Avenue in Cedarburg  where Schneider lived the last nine years of his life.   In 1905, Carl Bauer made an addition on the rear of the home (shown here) that served as a conservatory for plants.  The stone landscaping is typical of Bauer’s work at Hilgen Spring Park. 

Mary Chemotti, August 2014
*Annotated version of this document is available from CAM



A 1942 Milwaukee Journal article referencing a Schneider exhibition with works provided by Mrs. Carl Bauer of Cedarburg indicates that Schneider settled in Cedarburg in 1893.  In a WPA-era interview with Emma Straub Bauer (granddaughter of J. Friedrich Hilgen), she indicates that the artist Schneider lived in their home in Cedarburg from 1898 to the end of his life in 1907.  Schneider was impractical with handling money, often spending lavishly on friends without thought of whether it was reasonable.  He was in arrears paying for his room and board with the Carl and Emma Bauer family, and eventually  exchanged paintings for his debts.


Emma Bauer’s half-brother Walter Barth inherited the Schneider paintings owned by the Bauers.  For many years these paintings were on display at the popular Barth’s at the Bridge Restaurant in Cedarburg. Today many of these works have been gathered together from private collections to showcase the masterful Schneider’s work, so a new generation of local residents can understand Cedarburg’s artistic and cultural heritage.

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