Western North Carolina Landscape

William Frerichs

William Charles Anthony Frerichs (1829-1905) was born in Ghent, which was then part of the Netherlands. He began his art studies at a young age at the Academy in The Hague. Later he completed his art studies with a "Grand Tour" of Europe.

Frerichs arrived in America in 1850. He lived for several years in Greenwich Village, the center of artistic activity in New York. There he came to know many of the artists associated with the Hudson River School. While it is unclear what drew him to America, there are some interesting clues in his family. His father was an army officer and a newspaper editor, which implies a home life that included adventure and an interest in reading. Alexis de Tocqueville’s book Democracy in America was published in 1831, which found its way into many homes both in America and Europe, and included vivid descriptions of the American wilderness. Another possible inspiration for Frerichs’ immigration to America may lie in a friend, a Major Davasae of the U.S. diplomatic corps in The Hague. The Major gave Frerichs letters of introduction to a number of important Americans.

In 1854 Frerichs accepted an offer to teach art at the Greensboro Female College (now Greensboro College). He moved to North Carolina in 1855 to assume his duties. He spent close to ten years teaching in Greensboro and traveling to Western North Carolina on painting expeditions. Frerichs paintings and other artwork were destroyed in a fire at the Greensboro Female College in 1863. During the Civil War, Frerichs was appointed to special duty with a Confederate corps of engineers to inspect iron mines and other works in the mountains. But the economic hardship of the Civil War and the loss of his artwork in the fire took their toll. In 1865 Frerichs returned to New York City.

Forty years after leaving North Carolina, in an interview with the Newark News, Frerichs vividly recalled his travels in the mountains of North Carolina and their rugged beauty. In the mid-nineteenth century, western North Carolina was still a frontier, travel was difficult and Frerichs had his art materials and sketches stolen on more than one occasion.

He later moved to Staten Island where he died in 1905. His works are part of the permanent collection of several museums including the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Georgia Museum of Art, and the Newark Museum of Art in New Jersey.

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