Johann Berthelsen was a late American Impressionist painter. While he did not study art in France, he had ample opportunity to view French Impressionism on exhibit in New York City, Chicago and elsewhere. His New York paintings consistently approach those of the French Impressionists more closely than of his fellow Americans who studied in France. The American Impressionists borrowed liberally from the French movement when producing landscapes. Few, however, produced impressionistically painted figures. Berthelsen is an exception, since he places such figures within his freely painted cityscapes. In this sense he is close to the early work of the ‘father’ of French Impressionism, Claude Monet (1840-1926). Also handling of atmospheric effects of the same scene depicted at different times was also a trademark of both artists. Both artists used flags or other colour additions to highlight their cityscapes. It seems logical to believe that Monet, not Wiggins, directly or indirectly, was Berthelsen’s most important artistic influence.
Berthelsen was a member of several artistic organisations and he exhibited extensively, winning numerous awards. He showed frequently in New York City, Indianapolis and Chicago, for which he no doubt had an affinity after studying and working there for many years. He also produced cityscapes of Chicago in his later years, which was also a natural consequence of this association.
Berthelsen’s paintings are included in various private and public collections, and have received numerous complimentary reviews by art critics. Prestigious publications such as the New York Times, New York Herald-Tribune, the Chicago Evening Post, The Christian Monitor and others praised his work in glowing terms.
For most of his painting career, Johann Berthelsen painted the contemporary life and the energy of the metropolis which surrounded him. Besides their beauty and their power, they are illustrative of time-specific scenes, cityscapes, dress and vehicles of a bygone era, and are historic documents.
Berthelsen’s special appeal today involves two additional factors. His paintings are attractive, understandable and easy to live with. There is also a growing awareness and appreciation of American Impressionism and its increasing intrinsic value.
Johann Berthelsen, the painter who has the distinction of being an American Impressionist in the manner of Monet, is reported to have died in Wisconsin in 1972. His ability to portray so convincingly his impressions of scenes as both subjects of beauty and vibrant, atmospherically charged records of the metropolis, ranks him as an American Master Painter.