George Hetzel (1826-1899)
Country Road, 1878
Oil on canvas, 22" x 36"
Collection of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, PA
Gift in memory of John H. Coulter by his friends and family, 1994.36

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George Hetzel (1826-1899)
George Hetzel was born in France in 1826, but moved to Allegheny City, now the North Side of Pittsburgh, with his family at age two. Apprenticed to a house and sign painter at a young age, he began his career by decoratively painting the interiors of riverboats, cafes, and saloons. In 1847, Hetzel returned to Europe to attend the Dusseldorf Academy in Germany, where he perfected his skills in painting still-lifes, portraits, and landscapes.

After a fishing trip to the Scalp Level area near Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1866, Hetzel was so inspired by the beauty of the trees and creeks that he convinced some fellow artists and students to journey there with him in the summer to paint nature scenes. As a result, the Scalp Level School of painters was formed. From that point on, Hetzel made regular trips to Scalp Level to sketch and paint en plein air, or outdoors. Throughout his career, Hetzel exhibited his work at the National Academy in New York, the Pennsylvania Academy, the National Academy of Design in New York, and the Pittsburgh Art Association. He also exhibited at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, where he was the only Pittsburgh artist represented, and at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. Besides showing his work, Hetzel also taught classes at the Pittsburgh School of Design for Women. He died in Pittsburgh in 1899.

Hetzel drew from a number of schools and styles for inspiration. His works' dark, earth-toned coloration were influenced by the Barbizon School of French painters as well as European Baroque artists. Similarly, Hetzel is known for his use of chiaroscuro, the contrast of light and dark to mold form, which was also used in both Baroque and Barbizon School paintings. The reverent, nature-loving tone of his and other Scalp Level artists' paintings was also inspired by the landscapes of the Hudson River School painters. His work best fits into the style of "realism" with its natural detail and tight brushstroke, though some of his later works appears looser and almost impressionistic.

George Hetzel (1826-1899)
Mountain Stream, 1888
Oil on canvas, 21" x 35"
Collection of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA (88.37)

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George Hetzel (1826-1899)
Woodland Stream, Scalp Level, 1882
Oil on canvas, 24" x 36"
Collection of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Loretto, PA
R. K. Mellon Family Foundation Art Acquisition Endowment Fund, 91.007

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