- John Rasmussen
- View of the Berks County Alms House
- Signed J. Rasmussen and dated 1880
- oil on zinc
signed J. Rasmussen and dated 1880, titled below the image, and below that: Directors. Mahlon Fogleman. Francis Roland. John H. Bower. Steward: Benj. Anderson. Under Steward: G.E. Wisner. Insane Hospital Steward: James W. Sallade. Clerk: J.B. Knorr.
Descended in the family of the original owner until acquired by the current owner in a private sale.
Andrew Richmond, “Ferdinand Brader: An Historical Perspective,” in The Legacy of Ferdinand Brader, privately printed, 2014;
Frances McQueeney-Jones Mascolo, "Beyond Tradition: A Folk Art Collection in New Hampshire," Antiques & Fine Art, vol. VII, issue 2, Summer/Autumn 2006, p. 142.
The 1880 census lists John Rasmussen last on the list of “inmates” at the Berks County “poorhouse,” and he identified himself as a fresco painter. He had been in the almshouse in Shillington less than a year, but would spend the remainder of his life there. He was one of three residents there who painted highly detailed bird’s-eye views of the institution on tin sheets. The so-called “Almshouse Painters” were all German-born, and included Rasmussen, as well as Charles Hofmann (circa 1820-1882) and Louis Mader (1842-after 1899). Rasmussen lived at the almshouse from 1879 until his death in 1895. Hofmann entered the institution earlier, in 1872, but also lived there until his death. Mader took up residence in 1892, and in 1895, unlike the others, he left. Rasmussen’s time there overlapped each of the others, drawing upon the work of Hofmann and then influencing Mader, resulting in an aggregated body of work that displays a great deal of consistency.
In discussing the Almshouse Painters in the context of European and American perspective views in The Legacy of Ferdinand Brader (2014), Andrew Richmond notes that “they are painted with a decidedly positive tone although one cannot imagine life in a Victorian almshouse was at all pleasant. All three artists used a similar composition, with a large central view of the almshouse surrounded by vignettes. This arrangement of images was fairly common in maps and prints of the period, suggesting all may have been formally trained in Germany (reinforcing this is that Rasmussen was listed in Reading city directories as a painter, and one of Hofmann’s paintings includes the word “lithograph” next to his signature).”
Views by Almshouse Painters are extraordinary as art objects and as historical artifacts. Given the exceptional condition of the painted surface on the present work by Rasmussen, it ranks among the best to come to market in recent memory.