Meyer Von Bremen, Johann Georg (1813-1866)

Meyer Von Bremen, Johann Georg (1813-1866)
Meyer Von Bremen, Johann Georg (1813-1866)

Johann Georg Meyer Von Bremen was a distinguished German painter of biblical and genre scenes. Considered the foremost German painter of his type, the popularity of his idyllic vignettes was phenomenal. According to the critics, “there were few American collections without at least one Meyer von Bremen”.

During his early years, he was thrust into the role of breadwinner following the premature death of his father. As a result, he worked tirelessly to hone his drawing skills in an effort to raise enough income for basic necessities. Portraits for willing patrons generated a welcome supply of funds. A precocious talent, he soon developed a glowing reputation.

In 1833, he travelled to Düsseldorf where he enrolled at the Kunstakademie, which was led by Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow (1789-1862). At this point in time, Düsseldorf was at the centre of the art world and provided the zealous young man with a solid foundation. Advanced draughtsmanship was paramount to his academic teaching and would underpin his future endeavours. Fellow students included the eminent landscape painter, Andreas Achenbach (1815-1910), and the Norwegian romanticist, Hans Fredrik Gude (1825-1903). Both became close friends.

His early works were predominantly religious, depicting various scenes from the Bible - such as the ‘Woe of Christ over Jerusalem’ and ‘Abraham, the patriarch, surrounded by Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael’. But, by the early 1840s, he switched to his raison d'etre, depicting wholesome familial scenes within exquisitely detailed settings.

In ‘Maternal Joy’, a work from 1866, an angelic sibling cradles her newborn sister while her doting mother, convalescing, looks on. The details are exceptional, the silver teapot, tray, side table, undulant rug, each captured with aplomb. The outfits, too, are lifelike, near photographic in their accuracy.

Meyer Von Bremen

And here, in this piece from 1880, three children are captivated by ‘Grandmother’s Story’. Each clamouring for the next chapter. Toys are abandoned, strewn across the floor, too trivial when compared to the wily narrator.

Meyer Von Bremen

Sentimental visions of poetical family life were in colossal demand across the Atlantic and Meyer von Bremen was highly sought after. A critic remarked that he couldn’t produce enough to satisfy the market as the small size of his works coupled with their “lively tone” and “delicacy of finish” made them “peculiarly valuable as parlour pictures.” As such, prices skyrocketed with pieces exchanging hands for over $4,000, which equates to around $120,000 today. Indeed, this piece sold for $4,000 in 1881 to Mary Frances Hopkins of San Francisco, later known as Mary Frances Hopkins Searles, one of America’s wealthiest women.

His acute portrayals rendered not only an image but also a narrative - they draw the viewer in, enchanted by a tale. Much like the grandchildren listening intently, we’re holding our breath for the next revelation.

Meyer von Bremen’s success was rewarded with various accolades including membership of both the Amsterdam and Berlin academies. He was also knighted with the Order of Leopold. Following his death, as tastes changed, his misty-eyed lyricism became yesterday’s news. But, as we look back across a monumental oeuvre of over 1,000 paintings, he remains one of the leading lights of the mid-19th century. And as one critic put it, he “stood for all that was beautiful”.

He’s represented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.


Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Exposition Universelle in Paris, Düsseldorf, Berlin, Liverpool Society of Fine Arts, Crystal Palace Picture Gallery.

Public Collections

The Met, Nationalgalerie in Berlin.



Born in Bremen to Heinrich Meyer, a master baker, and Beta Meyer (nee Wilkens).


Studied at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art, which was led by Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow (1789-1862). He also trained under the portrait painter, Karl Sohn (1845-1908).


Produced his first work of note, ‘Woe of Christ over Jerusalem.’


Opened a studio in Düsseldorf.


Elected an honorary member of the Bremen Art Association.

Travelled to Brussels and Antwerp.


Awarded the Gold Medal of Prussia.


Married Juliane Henriette Beer (1826-1910), a singer, in Bremen.

Awarded a medal at the Berlin Academic Exhibition for ‘The Prayer of a Widow’.

C. 1852

Moved to Berlin.


Appointed by the King of Prussia as professor at the Art Academy in Berlin.


Works shown at the Exposition Universelle in Paris.


Awarded a medal at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.


Died in Berlin.


The Aldine (1879)

“There is no more popular painter of genre subjects in Germany than Johann Georg Meyer, called Meyer von Bremen, to distinguish him from a host of other artists, who also bear the name Meyer. In the picture of ‘The Young Mother’ an ever-interesting story is told with energy and simplicity. Like all mothers throughout the world, this one tenderly bends over the cradle, absorbed in thought, trying to read the book of fate and what it holds in store for her child. The happy infant peacefully sleeps, with only bright dreams to disturb its slumbers. There is even within its breast the stirring of a maternal instinct, since it clasps a doll in its arms. The picture is graceful in its conception, and, like all of this artist's, masterly in execution. In fact, the works of Meyer von Bremen are so well known in this country and in Europe that nothing need be said of them.

Almost all his pictures represent children, so that in Germany he has been called ‘Kinder-Meyer.’ Up to the present time he has painted something like one thousand pictures in oils and watercolours. He was born in Bremen about 1813, and is a pupil of the Düsseldorf school. At first he essayed historical and religious subjects, but afterward devoted himself to genre. He is a member of the Amsterdam Academy, and has received medals from Berlin and Philadelphia. At the National Academy in Berlin is his 'Little House-Wife.'

Among the pictures by this artist owned in this country are 'The First Prayer,' formerly in the Webb collection; 'Birthday,' exhibited at the Brooklyn Art Association in 1873; 'The First Lesson' and 'Industry,' in the Marshall O. Roberts gallery, New York; 'The Rabbit-Seller' and 'The Gossips,' exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition; 'The New Sister,' sold from the John Taylor Johnston gallery for $3,700; 'What has Mother brought?' sold from the Latham gallery, New York, for $4.650; 'Little Coquette,' owned by Mr. Theron R. Butler, of New York; 'The Water-Girl,' in the collection of Mrs. H. E. Maynard, Boston; 'Leaving Home,' 'Meditation' and 'Prayer,' 'The Clandestine Love-Letter,' in the gallery of Hon. Marshall Jewell, Hartford, Ct.; and 'Saying Grace,' in the gallery of Mr. Henry B. Hurlbut, Cleveland, Ohio.”


The Art Journal London (1887)

“Herr Meyer was born in the town of Bremen, from which he took the name that distinguishes him from many Meyers, (namely von Bremen) about the year 1813. Between the two schools which have long divided Teutonic Art-Düsseldorf and Munich - he chose Düsseldorf, entering the studios of the little Rhenish town with the ambition of devoting himself to historical painting, especially in the religious aspect which Düsseldorf cherished at one time with so much hopefulness of a revival of sacred Art.

He soon found, however, that whatever Düsseldorf in the aggregate could do, his own talent would prosper best in genre, in rendering peasant life and child peasant life. His subjects thenceforth lay entirely among the children of German street and field, the broad-headed little Teutons whose ‘lint-white’ hair is bleached by the sun which browns their German skins - the unshaded sun of that drearily bright and featureless region of the Rhineland which lies about the city chosen by Art and artists. Nowhere, perhaps, are children more pervasive and universal, more like one another, and more solidly and unconsciously happy than the boys and girls of this Rhineland. And of this Rhineland, Herr Meyer painted them so persistently that, being apparently a subject for nicknames - a kindly sign - he has been known in Germany as ‘Kinder-Meyer.’

The National Gallery at Berlin, which is national in another sense than ours, possesses his ‘Little Housewife;’ and a rather exceptional number of his pictures found their way to America before Transatlantic Art taste had developed under French influences. At the Johnston sale in New York, in 1876, a small Meyer sold for £750; at the Latham sale in the same city, in 1878, a picture of much the same inches and of a kindred subject, ‘What has Mother bought?’ fetched about £820. His ‘Water-girl’ is in one of the best private collections in Boston, and another Massachusetts town had quite the best Meyers ever brought together. ‘The Little Coquette,' 'Leaving Home,' ‘Meditation’, and ‘Prayer’ are ‘owned’ (to use the American locution) in New York. He has, in fact, rather taken the position in the United States which Edouard Frère has long held with us. But the popularity of ‘Kinder-Meyer’ is world-wide.

Alice Meynell.”

Alice Meynell (1847-1922) was a British writer, editor, critic, and suffragist.

Norddeutsche allgemeine Zeitung, Erste (Abend-) Ausgabe (1913)

“Meyer's father was a respectable, simple master baker in Bremen, but he left his family in tight circumstances, so that his son was given the expense early on, not only for himself, but also for others through the painting to which he had turned, to buy daily bread. After making a living in his hometown by taking portraits, he went to Düsseldorf in 1833, and the spring season of his life began there. As an artist, he was initially completely under the spell of Düsseldorf's academic tradition and busied himself diligently with designing large biblical boxes. He also carried out one of these designs, a [glias] fed by angels in the desert, in order to show proof of his skills when he returned home to Bremen, but it turned out that there was no room for him in his hometown, and so he turned again to Düsseldorf.

The younger forces were turning away from Baroque history painting towards fresh observations of reality with a preference for genre, and it was only when Meyer von Bremen joined this movement that he found himself. In the autumn of 1838 he began to create genre painting, and the very first, a picture of ‘Mother and Child’, he was able to sell for 19 thalers 25 groschen. Almost 50 years later, ‘The Darling’, sold for 25,000 M! Meyer von Bremen initially had to go through some difficult years, and even when his income increased, he was soon in trouble again because he would openly hand the money out.

In 1851 he married the singer Julia Beer, her love and hand he won in the same year. In 1852 the couple moved to Berlin, and here was the ground on which the artist's fame came. It was not in the least part America that made this fame; Meyer von Bremen was becoming the highest fashion for American art lovers, and finally almost all of his artistic production was from the easel sold away to America. There probably weren't many art collections created in the 60s and 70s in which Meyer von Bremen is not represented with a work.


The object of his paintings formed the cheerful circle of a simple existence. The family and everything that moves them in terms of suffering and joy, the child, simple figures and scenes in nature, such as a resting shepherdess or a waiting fisherman's wife. He was a graceful draughtsman, he knew how to compose very skilfully, and he had a fine eye and a fine hand for picturesque delicacies. Of course, his artistic character pointed him towards fine painting, and one could at best call him the Gerard Dou of German genre painting. However, there are many apartments in our father's house, and the amiable art of Meyer von Bremen is so filled and animated with genuine humanity that it will always find its friends.”

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