Otto Henry Bacher

Otto Henry Bacher. Hotel Ponce de Leon, Main Entrance, 1885-1887. Ink drawing. 42" x 48", framed. Collection of Flagler College.

Otto Henry Bacher. Hotel Ponce de Leon, Main Entrance, 1885-1887. Ink drawing. 42″ x 48″, framed. Collection of Flagler College.

Otto Henry Bacher was born on May 31, 1856 to Henry and Charlotte Bacher in Cleveland, Ohio. At the age of 18, he studied under De Scott Evans and became one of the founders of the Art Club. Four years later Bacher left for Europe where he studied at the Royal Academy in Munich and subsequently with Cincinnati artist Frank Duveneck. Along with a group of other young American artists, including Robert Frederick Blum and Joseph Rodefer DeCamp, Bacher followed Duveneck to Venice, Italy where he became acquainted with fellow etcher James McNeill Whistler. The two became close and had a strong influence on each other’s work. Bacher documented his experience with Whistler for Century Magazine, where he was a regular contributor, and in 1908 wrote the memoir, With Whistler in Venice.

In 1888, after several years of living in and traveling to Europe, Bacher returned to the U.S., married, and settled in New York. As William Andrew states in his book on Otto Bacher, Herman Schladermundt, an artisan who assisted with the Hotel’s decoration, recommended Bacher for a commission to create illustrations for a promotional book on the Hotel in 1887. The resulting etchings illustrated the Hotel Ponce de Leon from several different views, including the Main and Ladies Entrance.

Bacher moved to Bronxville, New York in 1895. He became one of several artists who resided in the Lawrence Park neighborhood, including Herman Schladermundt. Bacher continued to make work and he also spent a great deal of time writing. While Bacher completed many oil paintings in his lifetime, he was highly regarded for his etchings, particularly his depictions of Venice. Having acquired a camera while on a trip to Europe in 1885, Bacher documented his time in Venice and elsewhere in Europe in order to use the photographs as subjects for later etchings. As Meg Hausberg claims in her essay about Bacher, he was among the earliest artists to use their photographs from their travels as a basis for work in other mediums. These images of Venice were very popular, many of which are included in American institutions such as the Art Institute of Chicago and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Otto Henry Bacher died In Bronxville, New York on August 16, 1909 at the age of 53. He was survived by his wife, and former Cleveland art student, Mary Holland, and their four sons Robert, Otto, Eugene and Will.

Author: Whitney Warren Shafer

Sources: William Andrew, Otto Henry Bacher, (Madison: Education Industries, 1981) 131, 159; Meg Hausberg, “With Whistler in Venice,” The Bronxville Journal, vol. 3 (Bronxville: Bronxville Historical Conservancy, 2005-2006) 49-69.


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