Hermann Wilhelm Matthias Carl “Herman” Knutzen

Hermann Wilhelm Matthias Carl “Herman” Knutzen

Lübeck, Stadtkreis Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
Death 17 Jun 1939 (aged 69)
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Burial Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Memorial ID 180640838 · View Source
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Hermann Wilhelm Matthias Carl Knutzen was born in Lubeck, Germany on 12 June 1870 to Wilhelm Joachim Matthaeus Knutzen and Therese Elisabeth Marie Kuhlmann. He was the oldest of at least three children, the others being Wilhelm Theodor Mattheus Knutzen (1872-?) and Anna Marie Johanna Friederike Auguste Knutzen (1882-1953). None of the family used their middle names and Hermann even shortened his further to Herman.

The family immigrated to the United States in 1885, settling in Chicago.

Herman Knutzen became a photographer, stereographer and later in life an artist. His listed occupations in the census records were: Wood Engraver (1900), Superintendent of Printing (1920), Photo Engraver (1930).

He exhibited photographs on 1 to 20 October, 1901 at the Second Chicago Photographic Salon held under the auspices of The Art Institute of Chicago and The Chicago Society of Amateur Photographers.

Herman Knutzen
68. Along the Fox River.
69. Morning on the Banks of the Desplained River.

He married Elsa E Geyer (1884-1975) in 1909 and they had one daughter, Nora R. W. Knutzen (1911-?).

Unlike most stereoview publishers, Herman Knutzen produced mainly humorous works. They were usually done in color and usually in sets of six. His most productive period for stereographs was circa 1906. Drunken Back Alley Antics, a Magician/Juggler doing an Egg Trick, "The Bums" series, and the Dr. Pullemeasy dentist cards set shown at right were among his most popular.

An interesting footnote according to the website “Welcome to Agincourt, Iowa, the town that time forgot and geography misplaced”

By the 1920s an art colony had coalesced at Bagby’s in the resort community of Sturm & Drang. Better known as “The Last Resort” because it was farthest from the station-store terminus of the seasonal NITC interurban line, Bagby’s attracted a number of amateur and semi-professional artists—painters mostly—who employed the popular plein air idiom of the day. Chicagoan Herman Knutzen was one of them. He painted “An Oak along the Muskrat” in 1937, two years before his death but while still an enthusiastic summer resident.

Painting in the outdoors (en plein air) had been popularized by French artists of the mid-19th century and continued throughout the Impressionist period. In America it became linked with the Arts & Crafts movement, but was somewhat out of fashion by the 1930s. So, while “An Oak…” was plein air in style, its color palette was decidedly of the 1940s. Though he was a highly competent artist, Knutzen is better remembered today for a series of stereoscope images he produced of humorous and magical scenes. He had also been an amateur photographer thirty years earlier.

When the art colony dissolved in 1938, Knutzen gave this small painting to his hosts Walter and Estelle Bagby; Walter was a woodworker and very likely made the one-piece hand carved frame. Knutzen died in 1939, and the Bagby’s gave “An Oak…” to the Community Collection as a memorial to their artist friend.

Plan a visit to Graceland Cemetery?