HUGE, JURGAN FREDERICK
born in Hamburg, Germany, was a painter of Long Island Sound steam and sailing craft for about forty years. He left his native land at an early age and spent the rest of his life adapting to, and adopting, his new homeland. As he shed his European name (Jurgen Friedrich Huge), he also rejected the artistic conventions of the Old Worldand developed a distinctly American style.In nineteenth-century America, steam propulsion was the icon of a new era. The United States, a country that still looked seaward for its commerce, was fixated onnew, fast, and luxurious steamboats; Huge found his niche in the depiction of the coastal craft that plied Long Island Sound. By 1830 he had married and settled inBridgeport, Connecticut, where he established himself as a grocer. Beginning with a rash of remarkable drawings in 1838, Huge produced watercolor paintings of bothsteam and sailing craft over the next forty years. These homages to the new technology were interspersed with a smaller number of town views, probably courtesydepictions of the homes of his prosperous neighbors and customers.With flags boldly flying and smoke billowing from their stacks, Huge’s steamboats plow through the waters at flank speed. And no mere pond water is this, either.His waves are staccato repetitions that almost appear as a corrugated surface, reflecting light and shadow. The boats themselves are drawn in broadside profile,creating a recognizable silhouette while avoiding the problems of a perspective view. Huge left no detail to the imagination. He delineated his vessels in rich detail, wasmeticulous in his depiction of both hull and rigging, and peopled them with the full panoply of appropriately garbed sailors and passengers. It is apparent that these pictures were, as the inscription often states, “drawn and painted.” In their basic approach, they owe allegiance to the work of the naval architect, but the richembellishment is strictly attributable to the artistic impulse.Fewer than fifty watercolors by Huge are known to have survived, but they are an astounding body of work. Among the earliest is his watercolor
executed in 1838. This boldly stylized steamboat, labeled in a somewhat Germanic font, is a true landmark in the genre of American marine painting. It stands asremarkable testimony to the Americanization of this émigré “grocer and artist.”
Maritime Folk Art; Painting, American Folk
Hall, Elton W.
American Maritime Prints.
New Bedford, Mass., 1985.Lipman, Jean.
Rediscovery: Jurgan Frederick Huge.