Lambert Sachs, a painter of portraits, landscapes, and history pictures, was born in Mannheim, Germany, on 5 November 1818. He was the son of Anna Margarete Diel and Carl Bartolomaus Sachs, a professor at the Mannheim Lyceum where Lambert studied for five years.
Sachs began his education in drawing and painting in April 1832 at the painting museum in Mannheim, where his instructors where Franz-Joseph-Julius Goetzenberger (1800-1866), a history painter who later became the director of that museum, and Joseph Weber (c. 1803-c. 1881), a Mannheim portraitist. In 1835, Sachs enrolled in the painting academy in Karlsruhe, and seven years later he continued his studies at the Munich Academy.
In the 1840s, Sachs traveled extensively in Bavaria, Switzerland, France, and Italy, making pencil sketches and watercolors of the countryside. Sachs' surviving landscape drawings, many of which are inscribed by the artist with their location and date, seem to have served as personal sketches and travel records, for they do not reappear as either subject or background in any finished paintings known to date.
When not traveling, Sachs occupied himself with a variety of artistic endeavors. He executed mythological drawings in outline, probably taken from prints, and academic nude studies which show his ability to model forms in light and shadow to convey an illusion of volume. Sachs also painted many portraits in the 1840s, almost exclusively of members of his family. Many of these early portraits are stiffer and more awkwardly proportioned than his late efforts, yet they display the penchant for precise, detailed rendering, and subtle coloration that were to characterize his style throughout his career. The first of Sachs' two known self-portraits may also date from these years.
For unknown reasons, Sachs decided to come to America in 1850. He may have settled first in New York, as his 1903 biography states, although his name does not appear in any New York city directories. The earliest reference to Sachs in America is found in the records of The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he exhibited three portraits in 1854. One of these is probably the painting produced in collaboration with Paul Weber (1823-1916), another German artist living in Philadelphia. The 1854 Academy records list Sachs and Weber at the same address, 16 Sansom Street. The Philadelphia city directory of 1855 records Sachs as an artist living at this address, but the following year his name is absent.
According to his biographer, Sachs lived for several years as a farm owner in America, thirty miles from the nearest neighbor. This period of isolation probably corresponds with the years 1856, 1857, and 1858 when the artist disappears from directories, but Sachs was not, in fact, devoting himself entirely to farming. Several signed and dated works, largely portraits, document his occupation in these years as an itinerant artist in Ocean County, New Jersey, fifty miles directly east of Philadelphia.
Sachs returned to Philadelphia in 1859 or 1860 and is listed in a business directory under the heading "Portrait Painters" as "teacher of drawing and painting." In 1861 he opened a photography studio with Louis Walker. Their partnership is listed in the city directories up to 1864, when Sachs returned to Germany, where he remained for the rest of his life.
Upon arrival in his native country, Sachs set up a photographic business in Heidelberg. He spent 1870 in Wertheim, then moved to Freiburg. Many portraits of relatives date from the period after his American sojourn, and the biography notes several church altarpieces as well, although these have not been identified. Eventually, the artist had to give up painting because the oil paint was adversely affecting his health; he passed his days strolling in the forest, his lifelong pastime. A few years before his death--the precise date is not certain--Sachs retired to Freiburg Muttershaus, where he died of inflammation of the lungs in October 1903. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published, or to be published, in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
Lambert Sachs Files. Inventory of American Paintings. Washington, D.C.
"Lambert Sachs." In Familiennachrichten der Familien Sachs, Junghanns und verwandter Familien (Baden-Baden, 1903), 28: 6-7.
Chotner, Deborah, with contributions by Julie Aronson, Sarah D. Cash, and Laurie Weitzenkorn. American Naive Paintings. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 330-331.
Bodenbach, Hans Joachim. "Der Maler (und Fotograf) Lambert Sachs aus Mannheim (1818-1903) un seine Beziehungen zu Offenburg." Die Ortenau 1996:561+