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Frederick Ferdinand Schafer Painting Catalog

Painting record FFSd0697

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[photo] Mount Hood from Hood River, Oregon [5] (attributed)
Photo credit: Owner's photograph, 1974
Date: undated
Medium: oil on canvas, lined
Size: 20 x 30 inches (51 x 76 cm)
Inscription: l/l "O. G. Shäffer", underlined, second initial can be read as "G.", "B." or "C." The umlaut above the "a" appears as a single dot. Under the "O" and between the "G" and the "S" are faintly visible overpainted letters.
Verso: said to be "Mt Hood from Hood River, Or" in black brush on the canvas, before lining. "Shafer", on the frame, in pencil, in an unknown hand, probably that of a framer or dealer..
Provenance: said to be private collection, Billings, Montana; by descent to private collection, Billings, Montana c. 1950; by descent to private collection, La Mesa, California by 1974.
Attribution: Based on the photograph, the painting has a palette and overall composition that are typical of the work of Frederick F. Schafer, and it bears several other typical Schafer characteristics: wildflowers composed of dots of raw color, natural-looking white water and rocks, a small but bright attraction for the eye in the tepee near the center, both partially standing and fallen snags, and middle-distance mountains developed with less finish.

An unusual feature is that there appears to be a pentimento in the form of the outline of a second mountain peak a little to the right of the main peak; the pentimento rises at the right edge as if there were a previous intent to include a background mountain on that side. Since Mount Hood is isolated, the presence of the pentimento suggests that the canvas may have been started with a quite different scene in mind.

The signature inscription is puzzling. The hand resembles that of Frederick F. Schafer, but neither initial matches and the last name both omits the "c" and doubles the "f". Frederick Schafer's son, Otto M. Schafer, apparently worked in his father's studio for a short time, so one might expect that some paintings signed "O. M. Schafer" would be found (none yet have), but it is unlikely that Otto would have signed his name "O. G. Shaffer".

Some other possible explanations include that Schafer signed the painting this way as a practical joke or a pseudonym, or that the painting was originally unsigned and someone other than the artist, and unfamiliar with his correct signature, added the inscription at a later date. The owner reports that under black light the signature does not look significantly different from the rest of the painting.

Faintly visible under the signature are several dark brush strokes that appear to be additional, overpainted letters, suggesting that the original inscription was changed for some reason.

The unusual signature notwithstanding, the painting is probably the work of Frederick F. Schafer.

Note: The painting was restored by Herbert J. Dengler in 1980, and the wording of the verso inscription comes from a tracing he made at the time. If the tracing is accurate, the hand used in the verso inscription is not that of Frederick Schafer's usual verso title inscriptions; the letters are relatively small and mostly in cursive script, rather than the large vaguely Germanic block printing style.

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Feb 19, 2017, 09:57 MST