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Different strokes

Work of two artists subject of exhibition

April 17, 2011
By RODNEY MINOR , The Leader Herald

CANAJOHARIE - Donna Reston was slowly taking in the artwork of Rufus Grider and Fritz Vogt at the Arkell Museum in the village Tuesday.

Reston had been at the reception for the exhibit "Drawn to the Same Place: The drawings of Rufus Grider and Fritz Vogt" on Saturday. The interest in the artwork of the two men, who sketched the various buildings and objects found in the Mohawk Valley in the late 19th century, led to a terrific turnout, she said, with people packed in against the walls.

"I had to come back so I could get closer and read about the works," she said with a laugh.

Article Photos

Fritz Vogt’s colored and graphite pencil on paper drawing of the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Smith of Brookman’s Corners from November 7, 1895, is shown.
Collection of Frank Tosto

Interest in the works of Vogt and Grider is nothing new, Diane Forsberg said.

Forsberg, deputy director and chief curator at the Arkell Museum, said years ago - before she started working at the museum in 2005 - the museum had an exhibit about Vogt. Grider's work also had received attention, given how well he documented the history he found in the Mohawk Valley.

Alice Smith?Duncan, the guest curator of the exhibit, said Friday people in the area have started to learn more about Grider, especially because his work has been so valuable to historians. His works often is used by historians to illustrate topics, she said.

However, Vogt's work is more widely known. After exhibitions of his work, which included one in New York City, years ago, the spotlight really began to shine on Vogt's drawings.

"Vogt is highly esteemed in the folk art world," ?Smith?Duncan said.

The exhibit, which opened April 1, features more than 100 works from private and public collections. Lenders include the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown and the New York Historical Society in New York City.

Smith Duncan included plenty of information about both artists. As they gaze at drawings of churches, homes, farms and stores, patrons also can read about the two men who created the works.

Different people

While both men arrived in the Mohawk Valley in the late 19th century, the exhibit makes it clear they were very different people.

"A 48-year-old vagabond named Fritz G. Vogt, family and history unknown, arrived [in Canajoharie] in 1890," Smith Duncan wrote for the exhibit. "He had a skilled facility for drawing, and depending on season or need he offered his art or his physical labor for hire."

She noted Vogt may have been drawn from Germany by promise of work among this region's many hops fields and farms.

"Vogt slept in barns, refused rides, and suffered from a rheumatic disease," Smith Duncan wrote. "And he drank, sometimes heavily."

Grider already was a 66-year-old widowed father of two young daughters when he arrived to teach art at the Canajoharie Academy. A tee-totaler, he was embarking on a new career after already having found success in pursuits in Pennsylvania.

Smith Duncan noted that while they would not have been friends, they did have some things in common.

"Still, Vogt and Grider shared German as their native language, delighted friends with musical skills and ready wit, and tirelessly walked the rural roads with pads of paper, pencils and paint boxes," she wrote. "They must have known details of the other's work and habits, crossing paths as they followed in each other's footsteps."

Reston, a collector and dealer of Vogt's works, said she has a couple of the artist's works in the exhibit.

She pointed to one of Vogt's black and white sketches, noting the details on the house and in the animals out front.

"You can see the pride people had in the house and the animals people owned," she said.

Forsberg pointed to another of Vogt's works that shows a building, but appears to show it from more than one perspective.

"With Vogt, you can see his own fascination with buildings," she said.

Grider was fascinated with history, Forsberg said, and would do his research before drawing. Sometimes he would draw what he knew had been in a location, or how a building had appeared in the past.

"[Grider is] not showing what he sees [sometimes] but the building that was already gone," she said.

Smith?Duncan said Friday that as far as the differences between the two artists' work is concerned, Vogt created portraits of other peoples' homes and as he developed his style he introduced his own personal vision. Grider, meanwhile, tended to document historic sites for his own pleasure and posterity.

"[Grider] was not as concerned with his own self expression as an artist as much as creating a visual record," Smith?Duncan said.

The exhibit will run through Aug. 14.

For more information, call 673-2314 or visit



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