Click the Image to Enlarge

Hegler, John Jacob Dr. Turner Welch and Esther Welch, 1853


John Hegler was born in Bretzwil, Switzerland, and came to the United States in 1831. He worked as a miller, his father’s trade, but began portrait painting in Ohio. In 1845 he moved to Fort Wayne, and then to Lafayette in 1849, where he became the city’s first important painter. Hegler advertised himself in the Lafayette newspaper as offering “portraits from good daguerreotypes and also from corpses if called upon immediately after death.” He spent the last few years of his life in Attica, Indiana.

  • Dr. Turner Welch and Esther Welch, 1853
  • 35″ x 28″ and 35 1/2″ x 27 3/4″
  • Tippecanoe County Historical Association
  • Keywords: paintings, portraits, oil on canvas
  • Subjects: people, men, women, hats, eyeglasses, hands, books, chairs

Dr. Welch (1790-1875) had been a surgeon in the War of 1812. In 1846 he settled in Tippecanoe County with his wife and children; he was one of the first physicians on the great Wea Plains. Mrs. Welch was 55 when this portrait was painted. It is an obvious companion piece to the painting of her husband; note the background and chair. Her portrait, however, is painted in softer tones with more painterly brush strokes. Stark color combinations and the folds of her garment indicate that the artist took great care to add to the scale of the woman. Note the transparent bonnet painted over her hair.

Some Points To Consider

  • Remind students that many portraits use clothing, backdrops, and objects to indicate something about the person being painted. Ask students to identify symbols used to help illustrate who Dr. Welch was. (Art 4.1.3)
  • Help students compare the painting of Dr. Welch with the painting of Esther Welch, his wife. Ask them to describe the expressive qualities of both. Ask students if they think most paintings of that era were painted the same way. (Art 4.3.1).
  • Ask students to identify where Hegler used repetition in these portraits, and what the effect is. (4.3.1, 4.7.1)
  • Tell students that Mrs. Welch’s hands were painted expressively. Ask them to describe the mood created by the delicate arrangement of her hands. (Art 4.3.1)

Suggested Activities for Classroom Follow-Up

  • Have students create a new animal by starting with one that is familiar to them, such as a dog. Ask them to erase some part of the dog, such as its ears or tail, and change that part to the corresponding part of another animal, such as a rabbit. Encourage the class to make up new names and uses for the creatures the have drawn.
  • Help students create a day in the life of a country doctor. Have them research 19th-century medicines and other cures. Then, using a recording device to keep track of your story, pretend to travel down a dirt road in your horse and carriage to visit the sick. As you approach each house, ask students to add new details to the tale. Who will they visit in each home? What are the problems? What will they recommend? Play the recording for the students on another day. You may want to transcribe and edit it and then provide copies to students so they can add illustrations, including a map of the route.
  • While the doctor is out visiting patients, his wife is also busy. What are her activities on a typical day? Let this become another chapter in your story.
  • Take the class on a fieldtrip to a local museum, historical society, or library that has some original journals and letters from the mid-19th century. Help students take notes from them that they can use to create a story.