Sat, Dec 10, 2016 10:00AM EST - Sun, Dec 11, 2016 10:00AM EST
American, late 19th century. Oil on canvas, housed in a Closson's wood frame with gilt liner. A bird's eye view of Cincinnati from the Ohio river bank with hills in the background, signed and titled l.l.; 20.5 x 35.25 in. (sight).
This historical bird's eye view is one of the few known extant paintings on canvas by Arnold Holthaus, son of a German immigrant and sign painter August Holthaus (born about 1850). The Holthaus family continues in business today in the sign industry and Arnold, along with brother Gustav (active in Cincinnati from 1871-1895) were listed as scenic and fresco painters, and a number of their building signs exist today on Cincinnati buildings.
Arnold Holthaus seemed to have made several forays into the fine art realm, particularly in 1898, when he displayed a 9 x 7 foot canvas depicting the Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimac. He achieved some local fame with the painting, prompting the Cincinnati Enquirer to dub him "a genius of considerable talent" (Cincinnati Enquirer, September 18, 1898).
Given that this bird's eye view is from 1800, when Cincinnati was in its nascence, and includes a view of Fort Washington (Cincinnati's earliest known structure), we assume that Holthaus was working from another source. A similar image was painted by Alfred James Swing (1830-1893), another Ohio artist and "ornamental and fresco painter", and Swing's painting was popularized by the Strobridge Lithography company. It was also published by other firms and broadly distributed. While Swing's original view is lost, the printed views are well known in Cincinnati, printed by Strobridge in 1880. It is possible that Holthaus was working from the Strobridge lithograph or Swing's original painting.
The oil is an outstanding preserved view of Cincinnati as it was in 1800, painted approximately 1890.