Franz Edward Rohrbeck (1852 - 1919)

Birth date: 12/23/1852 Death date: 1/5/1919  
Birth location: Torgue, Province of Saxony, Prussia Death location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin  
Media: Decorative Art , Fresco , Mural , Painting , Painting / Oil Web site:
Comprehensive (file rating) - Major Wisconsin artist file that includes comprehensive documentation on artist's life that can be researched on site at MWA.

Biographical Brief

Studied: Berlin Academy, Germany
1885: immigrated to Milwaukee to work for American Panorama Company as a figure painter and specialized in the Confederate Troops in battle scenes.
1886: married in Milwaukee to Margaret Diez.
Painted 4 Allegorical murals in the dome of the Lancaster, Wisconsin Courthouse
1891: painted two murals in the Courthouse Square Green County Courthouse
          working as a decorative painter for churches, courthouses and private residences
1893: exhibited several large paintings depicting the life of Christopher Columbus
1908: Brown County Courthouse, Green Bay, Wisconsin; several Wisconsin History murals and the dome panels depicting Justice, Agriculture, Commerce and Industry.
1911: Grays Harbor County Courthouse, Montesano, Washington; large mural painting of a historic treaty with the Indians.
St. Patrick's Congregation Church, Racine, Wisconsin-wall mural depicting the accension of christ. Originally mural was above the altar of St. Rose Catholic Church, Racine, Wisconsin. (approx. 30' x 20' high). This painting was removed in 3 pieces and stored on a roller and crated. To be donated to an art museum for exhibition (2011) contact person info in confidential file.


Franz Rohrbeck
Born 1852 in Torgau Saxony
Died 1919 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Like many other European artists who came to Milwaukee during the last quarter of the 19th century, Franz Rohrbeck was drawn to the state for employment as a panorama artist.  It was their job to create huge historical paintings that would travel throughout America for the pre-motion picture entertainment industry.  The American Panorama Company’s painting studio was based in Milwaukee.  Rohrbeck was working in Berlin when he was hired by William Wehner of Chicago to come to America in 1885 and join the Milwaukee group. He worked on Storming of Missionary Ridge/ Battle of Chattanooga, Battle of Atlanta, Jerusalem on the Day of the Crucifixion and Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. In 1898, after the Spanish American War Rohrbeck went to San Francisco to work on another panorama, the Battle of Manila Bay, with artists Franz Biberstein,  George Peter, F.W. Heine and August Lohr. When this short-lived but successful episode of panorama painters ended, it left the state with many talented, academically trained artists who went on to contribute to the state’s vibrant visual arts scene.  

In the case of Rohrbeck, his contribution to Wisconsin art after this period was as much a practical application of his skills as it was fine art painting for purely aesthetic reasons.  Although he painted many studio canvases, few examples of his oil paintings remain.  A great deal of his time and talent was spent painting frescos and murals for churches, residences and perhaps public buildings throughout the Midwest. Rohrbeck was a member of the Society of Milwaukee Artists, later known as the Wisconsin Painters & Sculptors.
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