Gari Melchers: Painter of Genre Scenes and Biblical Subjects
Painter and muralist Gari Melchers was born in Detroit. He was the son of a wood carver and sculptor, who gave him his first drawing lessons. At seventeen, his father sent him abroad to study at the Dusseldorf Academy. He also studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He became an expatriate when he lived in Egmond, Holland, for sixteen years, sharing a studio with the American artist George Hitchcock. The people of Holland inspired his work and were his primary subjects. In 1909, he settled in Weimer, Germany, but returned to America at the start of World War I. Melchers made his home at “Belmont,” near Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he continued to paint in a naturalist style mingled with Impressionism, using thick impasto, a bright palette, and strong colors.
In Joan of Arc, Melchers chooses a peasant girl to become the martyred saint. In her simple dress, the young girl is surrounded by a field of sheep. A delicate halo refers to her spiritual calling, while her staff and blanket suggest a more earthly profession. Melchers was interested in depicting the ordinary lives of average people, but he also painted peasants as biblical figures in contemporary settings.