German Artist on the Pedernales
WILLIAM W. NEWCOMB, JR.*
IN THE SUMMER OF 1852 A FAMILY OF GERMAN IMMIGRANTS PURCHASED
a modest farm on the Pedernales River a few miles southwest of the
infant town of Fredericksburg, Texas. Dozens of other Germans were
also settling in the Fredericksburg neighborhood in the 185os so this
event would hardly be noteworthy, save for an unusual circumstance.
Two of the men were talented painters. Hermann Lungkwitz was a
mostly self-taught landscape painter; his brother-in-law, Richard Petri,
was a well-trained portrait painter.' Their Texas paintings and draw-
ings bestow a rare visual concreteness on a vanished frontier and provoke
a feeling of intimacy for a moment long since fled.
Hermann Lungkwitz's pencil drawings of early Texas buildings and
wild scenery, and particularly his oil paintings of the rugged hill coun-
try, with its rushing streams, rocky outcrops, and gnarled trees were to
make him one of the better-known landscape painters of nineteenth-
century Texas. His most productive years as an artist, however, came
some twenty-five years after his arrival in Texas. During the early years
on the frontier farm he appears to have had little time to paint.2
Richard Petri, on the other hand, suffered from tuberculosis and
perhaps malaria and could not have been much of an asset on the farm.
His poor health allowed him the leisure to pursue his art. Although he
drowned in the Pedernales in 1857, during his scant six years in Texas
Petri managed to produce dozens of paintings, drawings, and prelim-
inary sketches, which comprise a rich record of the people and events
of a frontier community." The almost voluminous record Richard Petri
left of the life and experiences of a frontier German farm community
*William W. Newcomb, Jr., professor of anthropology, the University of Texas at
Austin, and former director of the Texas Memorial Museum, is the author of The Indians
of Texas, and The Rock Art of Texas Indians. His book German Artist on the Texas
Frontier: Friedrich Richard Petri, written with Mary S. Carnahan, has just been published.
1Tax records for July 14, 1852, County Clerks Office, Gillespie County Courthouse, Fred-
ericksburg, Texas; Estelle Meyers, "The Lives and Works of Hermann Lungkwitz and
Richard Petri" (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, Austin, 1933).
2Pauline A. Pinckney, Painting in Texas: The Nineteenth Century (Austin, 1967), 86-97;
Meyers, "Lives and Works," 52.
SIbid., 30-31, 48-49.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101206/. Accessed September 17, 2014.