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Jurgan Frederick Huge

American, 1809 - 1878

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Jurgan Frederick Huge was born in Hamburg in 1809. Of the approximately fifty known examples of his work, most are renderings of sailing and steam vessels, which recall the artist's youth as a seaman. Huge (at that time spelling his given names Jurgen Friedrich) came to America as a young man. By 1830 he was established as the owner of a store in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and married to Mary Shelton of that city, with whom he eventually had four children. He was certainly working as an artist sometime before 1838. In that year, when he made the signed and dated watercolor of the steamboat Bunkerhill, one of his renderings, the steamer New Haven was reproduced in lithographic form and published by H. R. Robinson, New York. His ever-growing artistic career is reflected in the city directory which shifts from listing him as a grocer in 1868 and 1869, to grocer and artist a year later, and to landscape and marine artist in 1871 and 1872.

It is not difficult to understand Huge's appeal. Despite certain shortcomings in his ability to suggest realistic perspective (as in some of his architectural images), he was able to capture the appearance of his subjects to the very finest detail and, beyond that, to include "more elements than would meet the eye at any given moment." His settings, moreover, are filled with life and activity, projecting an image of prosperity and well-being. Huge's encyclopedic watercolors are ambitious in scale as well as in content, some reaching three or four feet in length.

In addition to his marines, Huge's works include "portraits" of some of Bridgeport's most impressive residences. The artist depicted businesses as well as homes. A precise document of a bustling commercial establishment, his watercolor Burroughs was painted two years before his death in 1878. It displays the same degree of clarity as works created more than thirty years earlier. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]

Artist Bibliography

Lipman, Jean. Rediscovery: Jurgan Frederick Huge (1809-1878). New York, 1973.
"When Bridgeport was Beautiful." American Heritage 25 (June 1974): 16-31. [a portfolio of color illustrations with captions, based on Lipman 1973]
Lipman, Jean. "Jurgan Frederick Huge." In Lipman and Armstrong 1980, 110-115.
Lipman, Jean. "A Huge Postscript." and "Jurgan Frederick Huge." Antiques 132 (September 1987): 496, 546-549.
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: 210-211.

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