(1814 - 1887)

Albertus, born in Tarrytown, New York in 1814, was the son of a sculptor, John Henri Isaac Browere (1790-1834), famous for his plaster life masks of Thomas Jefferson, Gilbert Stuart, and others. Washington Irving’s History of New York inspired Albertus to depict Peter Stuyvesant’s Arrival at Hartford (1833), Recruiting Peter Stuyvesant’s Army for the Recapture of Fort Casimir, and The Recapture of Fort Casimir (both 1838; Knoedler), which are full of animated figure groups and descriptive detail. He also exhibited The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow in 1839. Around 1834-40, Browere moved to Catskill; meanwhile, he was exhibiting works at the American Art-Union, the National Academy, and at the Apollo Association. The New York Historical Association in Cooperstown has Browere’s most famous painting, Mrs. McCormick’s General Store (1844), a comical genre scene of misbehaving boys.

Gold fever lured Browere to California in 1852 where he stayed almost four years. A second trip is documented (1858-61). The Lone Prospector, dated 1853 (David and Bernadette Packard) is probably Browere’s best known image of California. The naturalistic details are disappointingly formulaic and artificial and the whole seems theatrical, however, there is a sense of danger in the daily routine of a hermit-miner. Gold Mining in California (Private collection) typifies Browere’s transplanted genre style in 1858 with its miners playing a spirited round of cards. In the same year he painted a topographical landscape, View of the City of Stockton, also in a private collection, which was worked up from plein-air sketches executed on the bank of the San Joaquin River.

Browere’s Mokelumne Hill, dated 1857 (University of California, Berkeley), is a magnificent panorama and one of the artist’s greatest achievements. Pine trees frame the gently receding rolling hills, which the eye follows back to the distant blue-gray mountain range. Here nature’s details have been lovingly and carefully rendered with a sophistication that is lacking in the genre paintings and in The Lone Prospector. Equally convincing is Treasure Hunters, dated slightly later. The stern-faced figures, finishing up digging a grave, are bathed in a strong reddish sunset light from the right. The man standing on the right holds his hat behind his back and reverently nods his head while the deceased lies under a thick blanket. For this solemn work, Browere abandoned the caricatured faces, the wild gesticulating poses, and the excessive anecdotal detail and he conveyed the majesty of California’s redwoods, mountains, and dramatic sweeping valleys. Browere returned to Catskill where he died on 17 January 1887.

Contributed by Anonymous
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