VIPS in California during the 1800s


Charles Christian Nahl

1818-1878

Charles Christian Nahl sailed through the Golden Gate into San Francisco in 1851.

Nahl was born in Germany into an artistic family and, in 1846, with his half-brother, Hugo Wilhelm Arthur Nahl, and other family members, he moved to Paris.

In May 1849, because of political unrest in Paris, the Nahl family left (with Frederick August Wenderoth), for New York City, then to California by ship in search of gold.

After a time in the Sierra foothills, they abandoned mining and returned to painting. Out of their Sacramento art studio, Charles Nahl and Wenderoth produced paintings, commercial illustrations, and portraits that miners could send home.

After the disastrous fire in Sacramento in 1852, the Nahls and Wenderoth moved to San Francisco to establish their art business. They were also interested in bodybuilding and gymnastics, including publishing Instructions in Gymnastics; and their backyard gathering place formed the beginnings of San Francisco's Olympic Club.

Daily Alta California, March 3, 1878, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

DEATH OF CHARLES NAHL.

By the death of Charles Nahl, on the 1st Instant, the pictorial art of California lost one of its oldest and ablest representatives. He was a man of decided, varied and welltrained talents, and of much industry. Although many of his pictures are not free from striking faults, he seldom painted anything that did not also possess strong merits, and some of his pieces are gems. His conceptions were original, his designs full of life and dramatic action, occasionally theatrical and overdone, his execution careful and conscientious, his relief good, his arrangement of light and shade always effective, and his coloring strong and sometimes glaring. Sunday in the Mines. Charles Christian Nahl. Probably few artists had made so many experiments to try the effect of the different kinds of light upon pigments. As a draftsman for wood engravers, and a designer of allegorical pictures, he was highly successful. His certificates of membership in the Pioneer Society, the Vigilance Committee of 1856, and the Volunteer Fire Department, would long preserve his memory, if he had left nothing else.

He painted landscapes the view of "Sutter Mill in 1849 " is, perhaps, his best figure pieces, including several of exhibition size, six by ten feet, representing scenes of mining and Spanish life in California; animals, at which be was excellent; and portraits, in which be did not excel. He invented a method of making negatives by gand for photographic painting, and had a part in several other inventions relating to picture art.

Arthur Nahl's son, Perham Wilhelm Nahl (1869-1935) became a professor of art at the University of California and was a founder of the California College of Arts and Crafts.

Another son, Virgil Theodore Nahl (1876-1930), became a staff artist with the San Francisco Examiner.

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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