May 13, 2014–January 8, 2017

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

December 31, 1954

Oil on corrugated cardboard

13 x 15 1/2"

Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York

Gift of Lewis and Jean Greenblatt, 2000.1.24

Photo by John Parnell

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (1910-1983)

The Pile of Andrius (#67)

When art comes from outside the expected frameworks of the art profession, it tends to follow unsuspected paths. Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, who dropped out of high school, worked as a florist and a baker before devoting the last forty years of his life to making art. The son of a sign painter and the stepson of a Sunday painter who believed in reincarnation, he was exposed to creative trades and nonconformist ideas from an early age. Rapidly, he “became fascinated with botany and science, and wrote extensively on his own metaphysical theories of biological and cosmological origins, as well as the primal genesis of a genetically encoded collective knowledge. He composed reams of poetry on nature, love, war and politics, and imaginary travels through time and space,” explained art historian Caelan Mys. He identified himself primarily as a multidisciplinary creator; his interests ran from philosophy to painting, drawing, photography, and sculpture. His home became an art environment, transformed by his unrelenting outpouring of expression. Idiosyncratic in his techniques, he finger-painted with oils, fired clay pieces in his kitchen oven, made his own paintbrushes using human hair, and recycled leftover chicken and turkey bones to build his intricate objects.

Valérie Rousseau, “The Pile of Andrius (#67),” exhibition label for Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. Stacy C. Hollander and Valérie Rousseau, curators. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2014.