FREDERICK KEMMELMEYER (1755-1821)

James McSherry Coale
Libertytown, Maryland, 1811
Pastel on paper over canvas, 25 ½ x 18 inches, in original painted frame with rare, dovetailed joinery.
Signed on verso in chalk: “Painted by F. Kemmelmeyer, limner, 27th March 1811”

This likeness of eight-year-old James McSherry Coale (1805–1881) with his dog and bird is one of eleven surviving portraits by this artist, six signed and five attributed. Of those, nine are pastels, and two oils. James McSherry Coale is the only one of Kemmelmeyer’s sitters for whom another image is known, an engraving of him as an adult in John Livingston, Portraits of Eminent Americans Now Living, fig. 24. Coale went on to become a general in the Maryland militia, a lawyer, and a member of the Maryland House of Delegates.

Possibly born in the duchy of Württemberg, Frederick Kemmelmeyer is recorded in naturalization papers issued in Annapolis, Maryland, on October 8, 1788. He first advertised in the Maryland Gazette, or, Baltimore Advertiser on June 3, 1788, announcing his services as a drawing instructor, a painter of miniatures and larger pictures in watercolor and oil, and a sign painter. Kemmelmeyer lived and worked in Baltimore until 1803. His journeys as an itinerant artist over the following fourteen years can be traced through his advertisements and portrait sitters. In June 1803 he offered lessons in drawing, painting, and gilding in Alexandria, Virginia. Four months later he relocated across the Potomac to Georgetown. He advertised in Hagerstown and Frederick-Town newspapers in 1805, and then traveled north to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in 1806. His advertisements appeared in Winchester, Virginia, journals in 1810. He executed portraits of the Coale and Sappington family in Libertytown, Maryland, in 1811. After leaving Libertytown, Kemmelmeyer continued to travel in West Virginia and Hagerstown where he executed his last known portrait in 1816.

The small number of works by Frederick Kemmelmeyer are represented in notable private collections and the National Gallery, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, and Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts. For more on this artist, see John Caldwell and Oswaldo Rodriguez Roque, with Dale T. Johnson, American Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, volume I: A Catalogue of Works by Artists Born by 1815 (New York, 1994), pp. 157–62.

Provenance:
By descent in the Coale-Sappington family, Libertytown, MD; “Paintings, Furniture, Decorative Arts, & Fine Rugs,” Alex Cooper Auctioneers, Baltimore, MD, January 30, 2021, lot 1068; Kelly Kinzle, New Oxford, PA; David A. Schorsch and Eileen M. Smiles, Woodbury, CT.

Published:
Nicholas Powers, “Research Note: Frederick Kemmelmeyer—From Hessian Soldier to American Artist,” Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts, fig. 23, https://www.mesdajournal.org/2013/research-note-frederick-kemmelmeyer-from-hessian-soldier-american-artist/.
Advertisement for Kelly Kinzle, Maine Antique Digest, April 2022, p. 1.
David A. Schorsch and Eileen M. Smiles, By The People, For The People: Fine American Folk Art, 1780-1940 (Woodbury, CT, 2023), no. 18.

 

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