The 20th Century “Dean of St. Louis Artists”
Referred to as the “dean of St. Louis artists,” Frank B. Nuderscher was a long-active and strong member of the St. Louis art community. He is best known for his peaceful and soft depictions of the Ozarks, featuring the landscape in almost pastel hues and cast in a dewy light. His early work, though, focused moreso on the industrial landscape of St. Louis city. Through the tonalistic quality of his work, Nuderscher captured the vibrance and life of the urban landscape. Prior to focusing on fine arts, Nuderscher began his career as an illustrator, creating commercial advertisements, architectural drawings, and assorted illustrations. His transition from commercial work allowed more freedom in his depictions, taking on a much more Impressionistic and stylized approach. His urban and naturalistic works carried a similar lightness and haze, with his striking style evident within the varying subject matter.
Nuderscher was born July 19, 1880 in St. Louis, Missouri. He lived with his family in the city, where they operated an industrial contracting business. As the son of a successful contractor, Nuderscher was intended to follow the family business, but had his sights set on pursuing art. At the age of 12, it is said he gained his father’s support after earning two dollars from a sketch he created for a stone mason. His family’s background heavily influenced his early work, consisting of the industrial scenes such as lot 137 in this Saturday’s sale.
It wasn’t until around 1910 that Nuderscher began translating his hazy, atmospheric style to instead capture the rolling hills of his home state. His inspiration came from visits to the Ozarks, which is an area south of St. Louis known for its Missouri mountains, lakes, and rivers. By the 1920s following World War I, Nuderscher’s reputation earned him many commissions as the post-war society put heavy focus on the beauty of nature. These commissions were namely murals, one of the first being in the Missouri State Capitol building. He also went on to paint murals in many other cities throughout the United States, including New York City, Atlanta, and San Francisco. The majority of his commissions were in Missouri, where he and his family resided his whole life. He did work for the Missouri Pacific Museum, the Saint Louis Zoo, and the St. Louis City Hospital.
As such an active member of the St. Louis art scene, Nuderscher took pride in promoting the arts. In 1913, he was a founding member alongside Carl Krafft and Rudolph F. Ingerle of the Society of Ozark Painters. He also was a member of the National Society of Mural Painters and was president of the Independent Artists of St. Louis. Nuderscher was a highly respected Impressionist of the Midwest and utilized his position to nurture the surrounding art scene. He founded and was the director of the Nuderscher School of Art in St. Louis as well as the Ozark School of Art in Arcadia. In the summer he ran a small art school in Kimmswick, Missouri. As a self-taught artist, Nuderscher wanted to provide the environment for future artists to grow, and went on to mentor and teach generations of Missouri artists.