Benjamin Franklin Austrian is a very well-recognized artist of Berks County. He was born in Reading in 1870. His love for painting started at the early age of five.
He was mainly self-taught, but was probably most inspired by the accomplished local artists - Frederick Spang, Amos Gable, and Edward Howell. He widened his artistic knowledge by visiting chief institutions and exhibitions in New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
Ben Austrian’s realistic versions of chickens became his calling card, not only here in the United States, but also abroad. Ben took care of his own chickens, detaching them from common barnyard life. He observed their mannerisms, communicative ways, and their spirits. He had taught them to pose, enabling him to paint them from life. Ben Austrian’s work mirrors his realistic paintings of feather and fur, and his trompe l’oeil style paintings of still life.
Francis Daniel Devlan was born in Paterson, New Jersey in 1835. When he turned 16, he studied under James A. Benade. Daniel Devlan painted the Berks County landscape with proper detail by applying deep hues and selective luminous light.
His paintings are famous for the intense detailed features and bright colors, with gnarled tree roots and branches, boldly composed muscular animals, and vibrant thalo blue skies.
Francis Daniel Devlan died in Reading, Pennsylvania at the young age of thirty-five. He was an excellent and skilled artist.
Earl Lincoln Poole was born in 1891 in Haddonfield, New Jersey. He did his higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art (now the Philadelphia Museum of Art). He was a Jessup Scholar at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Poole went to the Central American countries of Guatemala and Honduras to study flowers, plants, animals, and bird life.
In 1913, Birds of Virginia was published with illustrations by Poole. Some of the institutions where his works were exhibited include: in Philadelphia, at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Academy of the Natural Sciences, in Los Angeles, at the Los Angeles County Museum, in Washington, D. C., at the Congressional Library, and in Ottawa, Canada, at the Victoria Memorial Museum.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1846, Christopher High Shearer was a descendant of Christopher Johan Shearer, a Dutch shoemaker who immigrated to Reading. Christopher Johan Shearer is considered the founder of the Shearer family in America.
Christopher High Shearer’s family relied on their trade skills of shoemaking, farming, carpentry, and building. He was raised in the family farm in Tuckerton in Berks County along with his eight siblings. During his childhood years, he was fascinated with nature and particularly butterflies. The open-air surroundings he was brought up in and the daily exposure to farm life enhanced his interest in art.
After achieving his artistic and financial success in Reading, he went to Germany and France to experience the artistic academia offered in Europe. He showcased his work at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia from 1876 to 1895. Some of his paintings were offered for sale for as much as three thousand dollars.
Upon his return to Reading, he fraternized with local contemporaries such as Frederick Spang, J. Heyl Raser, and Edward Howell, and organized outdoor classes by the river. As a strong promoter of arts in Berks County, he was the most influential figure of the local art movement, and strongly supported the movement in association with the Woerner Art Gallery.
He was responsible for the development of the Reading Public Museum and Art Gallery. He convinced Dr. Levi Mengel, the founder of the Reading Public Museum and Art Gallery to incorporate a painting gallery within the institution. He was instrumental in the development of the institution.
Christopher High Shearer’s sons, Victor and Arthur Bernard, were influenced by their father’s artistic skills as well. After his retirement, Christopher High Shearer started gardening and farming in a farm near Stoudt's Ferry Bridge. He opened an art studio and his passion for painting continued until his death in 1926.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1872 to Sarah and Christopher, Victor Shearer followed his father’s artistic footsteps and began producing landscape paintings which are at par with Christopher H. Shearer's works. Over time, he developed his own style and started working on several canvases simultaneously – all reflecting a remarkable likeness of his oeuvre.
Victor Shearer died in Reading in 1951 and was buried in Alsace Lutheran Cemetery.
Born in 1820 in New Lebanon, New York, Hiram Dwight Torrey was a painting and drawing teacher at the Washington Female Seminary in the late 1840s. Although he was primarily a landscape painter, he produced portraits, hunting pieces, and still life paintings as well.
After his marriage in 1850, he moved to Milwaukee along with his wife and opened an art studio. In 1853, he relocated to Reading, Pennsylvania, where he lived until 1862. Two of his paintings were showcased at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.
He displayed his still life entitled “Peaches” in 1855, and in 1856, Torrey displayed another painting entitled “Sunrise Among the Mountains” which is thought to represent the Berks County landscape.
Torrey was befriended by Francis Daniel Devlan (1835 – 1870) while he was living in Berks County. To promote local artists and provide purchasing opportunities for collectors, Torrey along with Devlan established the Reading Art Union in 1854.
Admired for his mastery of light, detail, and composition, Torrey’s style reflects his knowledge of the school of classical American landscape painting of his time. His trainings, however, were not documented. He returned to the United States after studying art abroad. He died in 1900 in Delanco, New Jersey.