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Artist of the Wrangell Family Collection

In 2009 the Anchorage Museum was offered a collection of seven art pieces belonging to Peter Wrangell, the great-great-grandson of Governor Ferdinand Petrovich Wrangell. The collection included four oil paintings of the Sitka waterfront, two pastel portraits, and one oil portrait. The portraits depicted Governor Wrangell and his wife, Baroness Elisabeth Wrangell. The owners of the paintings had no documentation pertaining to when and by whom these pieces were created. The landscapes and pastels were previously published by Richard Pierce and Katherine Arndt, who concluded, based on the construction chronology of the buildings depicted, that the views of the Sitka waterfront date between 1834 and the end of November 1835. The identity of the artist, however, remains speculative. In his communication with the Anchorage Museum Peter Wrangell suggested that the four waterfront views may have been painted by a Native artist during F.P. Wrangell’s tenure as Governor. It is possible that the author of the Wrangell Family paintings was creole artist Alexander Ol’gin, but conclusive proof of his authorship is lacking. During conservation treatment of two of the seascapes, several images of ships and boats were discovered under more recent layers of paint.

Sources and Literature:

Arndt, Katherine L. and Richeard A. Pierce, A Constructional History of Sitka, Alaska, as Documented in the Records of the Russian American Company. National Park Publication, 2003.

Knapp, Marilyn R. Paintings as Historical Documentation: the Intrigue of the Wrangell Family Collection in the Anchorage Museum. Over the Near Horizon. John Dusty Kidd, editor, Sitka Historical Society, Sitka, 2013, pp 261-268.