Fritz Müller was born in 1814 in Blumenthal, a small town on the Weser River in northern Germany. Trained as a seaman, Müller became a sea captain and lived in neighboring Bremen after 1841. By that time he apparently was married to a native of Hildenbrock, a town near Dusseldorf. In 1848 Müller left Bremen to give instruction in navigational science as well as in painting and drawing. It is not known where he went to undertake this teaching, nor where he had received his artistic training in order to do so. He was assistant officer in the first German fleet during the 1848 Revolution and was taken prisoner by the Danes.
Active mostly in the Bremen area, Müller produced marine paintings as well as oils and drawings depicting north German townscapes and landscapes. The subjects of his ten known marine paintings, ranging in date from 1853 to 1861, enable us to deduce a few more facts about him. In 1861, after about eight years of painting ship "portraits" in the Bremen area and after his discharge from the German navy, Müller emigrated to America. This move is corroborated by the date (1861) and the subject of the National Gallery's painting Capture of the "Savannah" by the U.S.S. "Perry" (1967.20.2). There is no information concerning Müller's activities and whereabouts during the Civil War, and it is not known when he died. Though now little recognized, Müller must have achieved some notoriety during his lifetime, as in 1854 some of his paintings were exhibited at the Kunsthalle in Bremen. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published, or to be published, in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
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: 261-262.