John Rettig    1855  1932

John Rettig was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was a painter, set designer, muralist and modeler of Rookwood pottery when it first hit the market place. He began fresco painting at age 15 and attended the Cincinnati Art School as a student of Elmer Potthast and Frank Duveneck. He also studied in Paris, and spent many years in Holland, living in Fishing villages.

In a long, distinguished, and varied career,  the artist John Rettig culturally stimulated and entertained the newly formed middle classes of the United States and, in particular, Cincinnati, Ohio with his grand multimedia exhibitions known as spectacles. These spectacles were similar in style to tableaux vivants with musical orchestration and dance, as well as sporting events and hand to hand combat. Rettig created these large scale visual feasts for the eye in the 1880s and 1890s for, among others, the Order of Cincinnatus, a group dedicated to enhancing the stature of Cincinnati. This organization prided itself in producing entertainments that will be a credit to the city with the power to draw large numbers of visitors. Building on the tradition of pageantry in America in the nineteenth century, Rettig moved beyond his contemporaries in creating visual events on such a large scale that, when first shown in Cincinnati, newspapers from New York and Boston, among other cities, reported on having never experienced anything more grand or exciting. A case study of the 1889 spectacle produced for the Order of Cincinnatus, Montezuma or the Conquest of Mexico, provides insight into the achievements and career of a little known artist working in a relatively unexplored medium. A thesis on Rettig presents a study involving the artistic genre known as spectacle as well as the cultural climate of Cincinnati and the United States in general during the latter part of the nineteenth century.Exhibition venues include the Pennsylvania Academy, the Boston Art Club and the Art Institute of Chicago.

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