Saturday, May 31, 2014


Grant Wood (1891-1942), famous for "AMERICAN GOTHIC", but a friend and neighbor to the Amanas. He lived only down the road in Cedar Rapids. He would come to Amana to sketch, paint, lecture, and meet with local art friend, Carl Flick, who wrote him a letter of interest which Grant Wood liked and came to help the beginning painter. They became friends and he was often invited for dinner, liking the potatoes Mrs. Flick made. He knew she liked blue and once painted her a special still life in blues. That painting was bought by a friend at a Homestead auction! While in Amana, Wood inspired resident arts and crafts people to maintain their traditional handicrafts and paint what they saw and knew in their own areas in a time when it was not popular to do so in pre 1932 Amana. Elders of the church saw decorative arts as "worldly" and a violation of the 2nd commandment. There are photos of Wood standing at his easel in his white shirt, overalls and hat painting in the orchard or vineyard areas. He would bring his friends, Marvin Cone and Adrian Dornbush. Wood' s famous painting "Woman with Plant"  his mom, Hattie, holds a plant that many have offshoots from, including me. One was given each Cedar Rapids art teacher as that is also where Grant Wood once taught. So a "bit" of Grant Wood still exists in Amana today! PBS photos..


Robert Bauer, born in 1942, originally from Williamsburg, Iowa, lived in Middle Amana for a few years in the late 70's to mid 80's. He is a master painter, now living in Rhode Island and represented exclusively by the Forum Gallery in NYC since 1990. He studied at the Pennsylvania academy of fine arts, over the years winning numerous awards including a National endowment for the Arts fellowship, showing in many galleries and art shows. Mr. Bauer has a great eye for detail to create highly intimate, personal portraits, as he does mostly now. I was fortunate to have my wedding portrait painted in 1976, a creative and learning experience. His unbelievable skill makes his paintings look like a photograph. Usually small in size, Bauer paintings are in oil, acrylic and watercolor. His portraits are mainly in oil as is mine and my husband's. His landscapes are painted in a manner and look of a Victorian, English landscape. He once told me he liked the layering of the receding lands in the backgrounds, creating depth. His eye for detail, gift of precision, and realistic painting style make him one of the best regionalist and portrait painters I have seen and known. As a teacher and artist, Bauer influenced and inspired many past and current local painters to reach their potential in his short time in Amana. Enjoy photos of my collection of his work!

Friday, May 30, 2014


Ruth Schmieder (1922-2011) , started painting in the early 1960's after her first art class at the YWCA in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She studied later with Master painter, Robert Bauer, who lived in Amana a short time, now of Rhode Island and with the Forum Gallery in NYC. The daughter of a skilled, ameteur photographer and Dr.with a fine sense of composition, Ruth was born into artistic expression.  Her talents were many but painting in oils and acrylics was her favorite. She painted on canvas presenting scenes of the Amanas and rural landscapes. Later in life she painted miniature paintings, mostly flowers, which she also meticulously painted on wooden and glass eggs. Ruth was also an avid knitter, quilter, did sewing and became a master bridge player. Ruth was one of several local female artists to share their Amana experience on the canvas. She attended several local art shows and fairs, where I bought the painting below. It is a scene behind what was the Young house on main street Amana, now a bakery.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Carl Flick, born in 1904 in West Amana, had a great appreciation for arts an
d crafts at an early age. He was a West store clerk and worked at Amana Refrigeration. He took Saturday morning art classes, thrived, and began painting a lot by the late 1920's at age 25. Flick studied at the Grant Wood Art Colony in Stone City painting his impressions of Amana life with great interest, passion, and understanding of local customs and people. He befriended ,through a letter at first, the famous painter, Grant Wood, who came to visit Flick often. Grant Wood taught and inspired Flick to become a regionalist painter with some clout. He showed his paintings April 17, 1932 at Amana's first art show in Iowa shown at the Homestead hotel. Flick won several contests and awards including displays at the Chicago World's Fair, the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, the American Federation of Art, and in NY City, some of where he studied. He devoted his talent to scenes of Amana life and its beautiful, Iowa River valley landscapes. In 1932 he attended Grant Wood's Stone City art colony for a year, a great influence on him.  In that same year he was a member of the Amana society's committee that planned the "great change" to drop the communal system. He is known for "An Amana Interior", "An Amana Funeral", and " Self Portrait ". Due to bad eyesight , Flick had to stop painting in the mid 60's. He passed away in his home in 1976. Google images Plat...Hoehnle..AHS...


Wednesday, May 28, 2014


William F. Noe (1898-1978),  brother of John Noe both of Amana, was a great photographer and painter. He painted in a similar style and genre of his brother, not as refined or detailed but,  documented the Amana experience he lived, winning many awards in the short time he painted. Amana buildings and shadow work were the focus of his paintings and photos. He also played the violin, repaired clocks, and helped the Amana Society with his professional style photos for brochures and pamphlets after the Great Change in 1932 when he served as treasurer. In the early 1920's he worked as a clerk at the Amana General Store and fifty years later opened one of the first antique shops. He also was a church elder, writer, grafted Apple trees, and family man...quite a talent he had in many areas. Photos of local restaurant collection.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Joseph Presetele, master lithographer, was born in Jettinger, Bavaria, Germany in 1796 and died in Amana in 1867. He learned much about garden plants and propagation from a local nursery and his father in his German hometown. Joseph is responsible for inspiring flower gardening in Amana where it was not supported at first. He became head gardener for king Ludwig 1st.  On the King's huge estate he was inspired to do drawings of botanicals which led to his skilled painting techniques and lithographs full of  artistic and scientific value. Lithography, techniques of engraving on stone, was started in Munich around the time he was born and so eventually it became his interest in life. He studied art in Vienna and Munich. In 1835 he joined the Amana Inspirationists, in 1843 came to Ebenezer with his family, studied more in NY, came to Amana where Leaders Metz and Moershel encouraged him to keep up his art where he did prints for the Amana Society, many unsigned for them. Father of 9 children, five of whom lived, and three Gottlieb, William, and Joseph, Jr. were artistic but not all followed in their fathers religious beliefs. Joseph, Sr. was an elder of the church while busy at this quite meticulous art of lithography.  Photos of my poster collection.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


The Prestele family moved to Amana, Iowa in 1858, including Joseph and his three sons, Joseph Jr., Gottlieb and William Henry. They did hundreds of beautifully detailed botanical, original lithographs, drawings, spiritual images and watercolors,  a nearly forgotten artistic heritage at one time until the 1970's when scholars in Germany and the US discovered Joseph Prestele's work. Below are some photos of my prints by William Henry Prestele who lived from 1838-1894. He was born in Hessen-Darmstadt after his parents left Munich, immigrated to Ebenezer, NY, and left the Amana group to become an artist in NY. He hand colored many of his father's prints as he was highly skilled. A nursery in Illinois hired him to do the same in 1867. W.H. also printed in Missouri, D.C., and Texas. In 1875 he set up a print studio in Iowa City, Iowa where he did lithography, with freely drawn lithograph crayon, under his own name not Amana Society. His daughter assisted him. In the late 1870's he published a catalog that listed 472 different titles of fruit and flower prints. All these prints below are signed W.H.Prestele. Much of his work is stored in the Nat'l Agricultural Library, his work was less detailed than his father's, but still very fine. Several places and people in Amana have collections as well. He was appointed head artist at the Pomological Division of the Dept. of Agriculture because of his creativity, and for seven years did his colorful chromolithographs till his history trail ended in 1895 when he passed in Virginia, where he rests in Arlington National Cemetery.

Monday, May 19, 2014


Another early Amana painter who was inspired by artist friend, Carl Flick,  was John Noe, who was born in Amana in 1900, lived here all his life until his death in 1954. He was a self-taught artist with no formal training but managed to paint about 200 paintings which are all over the country. He began painting at the age of 44 in the 1940's when the communal system of Amana had long ended. His main focus before then was woodworking. He won numerous awards for his work of Amana street and barn scenes, including the Popularity Award at the Iowa State Fair. One of his works entitled "Dilapidated Barns" is in the collection of Mr. Dwight Eisenhower family. He was highly skilled and had a refined look to his work with nice use of detail and composition. His interest in sketching when be was young eventually led to his fine artistic visions of old Amana. The birds are in my collection and last photo was taken at an auction house.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


There were many amateur painters from early Amana. The original colonists were comprised of artisans and farmers from Germany, a very create group inspired by the unique architecture and landscapes of Ebenezer NY and the Amana villages. This scenery was very conducive to create paintings. One such artist, George Schoenfelder was born in 1907, a carpenter by trade, had many interests. He painted mainly through the winter months and managed to produce 36 paintings in oil, his favorite medium. He painted many people and scenes of Amana, where he lived until 1987 with his wife , Elizabeth. George was one of the last who attended one of the famous Grant Wood' s Stone City workshops in the early 1930's. His first painting, "Mohi" (1935), was a still life of an overturned basket of potatoes and strongly influenced by Wood. The photo below is of a painting George did of a community kitchen where his wife's grandmother worked. It was a gift to her on their first Christmas as a married couple. It is owned by a local antique shop, Amana Colonies Antiques, possibly called "Community Kitchen".


Sunday, May 11, 2014


One of the hobbies that captured the interest of a few in old Amana was beading. This art was done in free time with finely woven wires filled with bead patterns to make baskets, floral bouquets, trees, or decorate an object. A lady in Amana named Betty Christian was very good at creating these beaded objects. They were quite intricately crafted, unique and decorative. Perhaps they were inspired by Native Americans that used to come to the Amanas for food and trading.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


A Sunday evening meal in communal Amana in the early 1900's was picked up at the neighborhood community kitchen, and there were many in the villages. The food, from the community gardens, was prepared by the kitchen boss and her helpers. The herbs and vegetables, the chickens for eggs and meat, and the breads were all freshly served. The dinners were picked up in locally made tin buckets and hand woven baskets to be carried to the waiting family. A typical Sunday meal would consist of Boiled beef with homemade horseradish, Amana style creamed spinach, fried potatoes, bread and butter, and in the spring, radish or lettuce salad would be added. All very delicious to a waiting family.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


The communal kitchens in early Amana prepared lots of food for the many residents. The community kitchen gardens were full. Cabbage for sauerkraut was grown in large patches, prepared in large batches, and put kitchen tools to the test. The krautcutter was a necessity and hand made by the local woodworker and metalsmith. They were made of rectangular pieces of wood with one or two blades set in diagonally. Some models had a sliding box compartment that held the whole cabbage head in place. Smaller cutters were used for slaw or vegetables as potatoes and onions. Many heads of cabbage were sliced and packed into crocks which were filled with brine. This was prepared late summer for winter use of some good sauerkraut! Many of these tools were replaced by new items bought in stores after the communal system ended in 1932.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


It's that time of year again when you see the ever-present dandelions. School children would bring me bouquets of them but here in Amana they were paid by the wineries to bring the blossoms in by the gallons to make dandelion wine. Originally from Europe, the dandelion with it's the saw-toothed leaves that  resemble the teeth of a lion,  led the French to come up with " dent-de-lion" and the Germans tagged it " Loewen-Zahn" or lion's tooth. The young, tender leaves were used for Ziggorie Salat in old Amana. The blossoms used for the wine peaked only a few days after the plant was two weeks old, with the best time to pick being between 10-3 on a sunny day. 180 pounds of dandelion blossoms made enough extract for 50 gallons of wine when pressed. Sugar was added and fermented a year to a pale yellow sweet, white wine. This was one of the wines unique to the Amanas for many years.

Monday, May 5, 2014


Rhubarb in Amana makes me think of restaurant, rhubarb custard pies and Piestengle, a crystal, clear white , dry rhubarb wine made from fermented juice of rhubarb stems made by local wineries. The first rhubarb plants here in Amana migrated from Mongolia to Europe to the United States with the Amana Colonists, who brought it from Ebenezer, NY. Rhubarb, with its large, curly-edged leaves and pink fruit, arrives early in the spring and is a long lived, hardy perennial that roots itself deeply in the ground. Deep enough to thrive in areas where the ground deep freezes like in Iowa. The wetter the spring, the juicer the stalks, the longer the stalks, the higher the sugar content- just right for pies and this dry wine. Each plant can render about 2 gallons of juice, 10 gallons of juice made about 50 gallons of wine, with 400 gallons of Piestengle made in two days at an old local winery. It took about nine months to a year to ferment and then ready to taste!

Sunday, May 4, 2014


 Just after the final frost left the ground and before rows of vegetable and root plants were planted in the Old Amana gardens, gardeners would place small setups in the garden called "cold frames". These were usually built by the carpenters in mid February from wood planks and propped by bricks, then covered with wooden storm windows. This created a greenhouse effect, kept the soil moist and allowed for the early sowing of seeds. Fertilizer was also added to enhance growth of seeds and plants. Kitchen and garden bosses of the old community kitchens would be anxious to get these going in the spring. These cold frames were covered on cold nights and propped open on warm days for airflow or ventilation. In this way the gardeners could strive for an Easter harvest of lettuce and other greens which could be picked longer this way than in nature. This method is still used today in some Amana gardens.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


A special annual tradition in the Amanas that celebrates the spring and all that is new around the first of May is MAIFEST. This tradition that dates back to the 16th century Germany where a ceremonial folk dance takes place around a decorated pole and young garlanded ladies weave ribbons into complex patterns around the pole as they step dance to accordion music. This was carried on from ancient dances around a living tree as part of a spring rite to ensure fertility of the season.You will see Maipoles at the entrance to town and by the shops, also the ladies carry a colorful pole to different dance sites in town. The practice for this dance goes on long before the day so all are ready to perform for MAIFEST weekend. There can be several generations of one family in the group. All, fun to watch!