Otto Henry Bacher (1856 - 1909)
Fall Landscape, n.d.
Oil on canvas
28 x 36 inches
Signed at lower left: Otto h. Bacher
Otto Henry Bacher was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to a family of German descent. He first studied art at the age of sixteen with local artist DeScott Evans. After a short period in Philadelphia, where he studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Bacher returned to Cleveland and met Willis Seaver Adams, an artist from Springfield, Massachusetts, who had just recently arrived on the Cleveland art scene. Adams was instrumental in the founding of the Cleveland Art Club, as well as the establishment of the Cleveland Academy of the Fine Arts, to the board of which Adams had Bacher appointed.
In 1878, Bacher and Adams left for Europe. After stopping briefly in Scotland, Bacher went on to Munich, where he enrolled at the Royal Academy. He quickly tired of the rigors of the Academy, and soon he was studying with Cincinnati artist Frank Duveneck, the prime American exponent of the Munich School. In 1879, Bacher made a trip to Florence with Duveneck as one of the celebrated "Duveneck Boys." Early the following year, the group proceeded to Venice, where Bacher and several other artists established studios in the Casa Jankovitz.
It was in Venice that Bacher met the American expatriate artist, James McNeill Whistler. Whistler made himself a regular visitor to Bacher's studio, and he eventually took his own room in the Casa Jankovitz. Bacher spent much of the rest of 1880 with Whistler, the two artists sharing etching techniques.
Bacher returned to Cleveland in January 1883 as a fully cosmopolitan artist. He set up a lavish studio furnished with exotic items and objets-d'art he had collected on his travels, and began to hold art classes as a means to supplement his income. He soon joined with Joseph De Camp in forming a summer sketch class in Richfield, Ohio. Bacher and De Camp also planned the Cleveland Room for a major loan exhibition in Detroit that year. During this period, Bacher increasingly painted in oil, and he began to produce sun-dappled canvases in an impressionistic mode.
Unable to sell any paintings from this early period, however, Bacher left Cleveland for Paris in 1885, where he planned to undertake further studies. Stopping first in London to visit Whistler, Bacher stayed only briefly in Paris before heading to Venice, where he spent the remainder of the year. In January 1886, Bacher returned to Paris and enrolled at the Académie Julian, and also entered the atelier of Emile-Auguste Carolus-Duran. The life of the student seems never to have suited Bacher, as he stayed in Paris only through June, before departing again for Venice. For the next six months he lived with Robert Blum and Charles Ulrich in the Palazzo Contarni degli Scrigni on the Grand Canal. At the end of the year, Bacher returned to New York, and settled permanently there after marrying in 1888.
Bacher remained an important printmaker and illustrator for the remainder of his career, and it is primarily as a printmaker that he is known today. In addition to his work in printmaking, Bacher also produced and sold a number of oil paintings and pastels throughout the 1890s and early 1900s, many of which he exhibited in New York at the Society of American Artists and the National Academy of Design. These works demonstrate Bacher's assimilation of Impressionism, both in his treatment of genteel interior scenes as well as the landscape.
One of his works, Nude Outdoors (1893, Cleveland Museum of Art), has been recognized by William Gerdts as perhaps "the most fully Impressionist treatment of the nude in American art" (American Impressionism [New York: Abbeville Press, 1984], pp. 245, 246 illus. in color).
Bacher spent the last years of his life in Lawrence Park, Bronxville, New York. Along with all the members of the Society of American Artists, Bacher was elected an associate of the National Academy of Design in 1906.
He died of an unexplained illness in 1909.