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collections > permanent collection > paintings > george hetzel
George Hetzel George Hetzel
(American, b. France, 1826-1899)
Woodland Stream, Scalp Level,  1882
Oil on canvas, 24" x 36"
R. K. Mellon Family Foundation Art Acquisition Endowment Fund

Although occasionally essayed by Hudson River School painters such as Asher Brown Durand and John Frederick Kensett, landscapes set within shaded forests were a specialty of Pittsburgh’s George Hetzel.  Woodland Stream, Scalp Level, is a fine example of the artist’s work, and depicts a view near Scalp Level, the western Pennsylvania village where Hetzel founded an artist’s colony in the late 1860s.  Hetzel, an avid angler, loved to paint the rock-strewn streams in the vicinity of Scalp Level and nearby Johnstown, and in some of his canvases he included the figures of friends fishing.  Woodland Stream, however, is devoid of such narrative elements:  its tunnel-like composition instead draws the viewer into the scene, where he or she may wield their own imaginary fly rod, or simply sit in quiet contemplation of nature itself.

Born in the Franco-German region of Alsace, Hetzel was two years old when he arrived in America with his family in 1828.  Growing up near Pittsburgh, the artist began his career as an apprentice to a house and sign painter.  He traveled to Dusseldorf for formal training in 1847, and upon his return to the United States, he opened a studio in Pittsburgh.  By the mid-1850s, he was regularly exhibiting his work in Pennsylvania and New York.  The remainder of his career was spent in Pittsburgh, where he became a leading figure in the city’s art scene.  Hetzel served as President of the Pittsburgh Artists Association, Principal of the Pittsburgh School of Design for Women, and in 1880, he co-founded an art school with John W. Beatty, first director of the Carnegie Institute.  In 1909, the Carnegie Institute featured Hetzel’s work in a memorial exhibition staged ten years after his death.