John Valentine Haidt


portrait painter, painter of biblical scenes, preacher, and evangelist for the Moravian Church, was born in Danzig, Germany, and died in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.Although trained in drawing at the Royal Academy of Arts in Berlin, Germany, he began his artistic career working for his father (who was jeweler and sculptor byappointment to German Emperor Frederick I) as a goldsmith. Haidt traveled widely in Europe, living and painting in Dresden, London, Paris, Venice, and Rome, buthis affiliation with the Moravian Church of London in 1740 was the pivotal event in his life’s journey.After beginning his missionary work in Europe, Haidt was sent in 1754 by Count Nicholas Zinzendorf, the founder of the New Moravian Church in Germany, toBethlehem, Pennsylvania. He was charged with carrying the Gospel to the Native Americans, and his missionary work took him to New England and Maryland. Hecontinued his painting, supplying religious canvases to the Moravian churches, and portraying members of their congregations. The church gave him a studio inBethlehem in 1756, which he occupied until 1774.Haidt is recognized for his portraits of Moravians who lived in Bethlehem, Lititz, and Nazareth, Pennsylvania, as well as for his subjects of Moravian theology. Haidtneither dated nor signed his paintings. His portraits are valued for documenting the personalities of the Moravian church’s earlier days. Scholars have concluded thatHaidt’s paintings influenced the early work of Benjamin West (1738–1820), acclaimed as the best-known American artist of his generation, who painted inPhiladelphia and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1775 and 1776.Haidt’s portraits of Moravian church leaders and congregants have similar compositions. They usually measure 25 by 20 inches, and portray the head and upper torso of the sitters. Historically, the paintings hung unframed on the walls of the Moravian churches, in accord with their precepts of strict simplicity. The titles of his biblical paintings convey the subjects:
Crucifixion, Christ Before Pilate, Rest on the Flight into Egypt, Christ Before Herod, Lamentation Over the Body of Christ, Christ Scourged,
Thomas Doubting
. Perhaps the most significant painting in the history of the Moravian Church is Haidt’s
First Fruits
. Painted about1760, it contains twenty-five life-size figures, including a Native American in a feathered headdress. The figures depict either potential converts awaiting the Gospel, or the already converted.
See also

Painting, American Folk; Religious Folk Art
Baker, Virgil.
American Painting, History, and Interpretation.
New York, 1950.Engel, Charlene S.
Paintings by John Valentine Haidt.
Bethlehem, Pa., 1982.Art Institute of Chicago.
From Colony to Nation: An Exhibition of American Painting, Silver, and Architecture, from 1650 to the War of 1812.
Chicago, Ill., 1949.Howland, Garth A. “John Valentine Haidt: A Little Known Eighteenth-Century Painter.”
Pennsylvania History,
vol. 8 (October 1941): 303–313.Morman, John F. “The Painting Preacher: John Valentine Haidt.”
Pennsylvania History,
vol. 20 (April 1953): 180–186. Nelson, Vernon.
John Valentine Haidt.
Williamsburg, Va., 1966.Saunders, Richard H., and Ellen G.Miles.
American Colonial Portraits, 1700–1776.
Washington, D.C., 1987