Woman in Kitchen (Kitchen Maid)
William Hahn, born Karl Wilhelm Hahn in Ebersbach, Saxony, studied painting in the renowned international art centers of Dresden and Düsseldorf in the 1850s. During this time, he met many American artists, including German-American history painter Emanuel Leutze (1816–1868) and California landscape painter William Keith (1838–1911), who likely influenced Hahn’s fondness for interior and exterior scenes with a focus on human activity.
The subject matter of Woman in Kitchen (Kitchen Maid)—an older woman working beside a kitchen fire—relates to similar figural paintings by the artist dating from the 1860s, of ordinary people at work or play. Hahn revels in detailing his subjects’ surroundings, from the broom and small pile of swept hay, to a lantern on the wall and a spinning wheel discernible in the next room. His dark palette and meticulous painting technique, as well as his domestic content, reflect German academic art traditions of the mid-nineteenth century.
In 1871, Hahn fled the Franco-Prussian War and sought artistic opportunities in the United States. During the decade the artist was here, he lived primarily in California but also for a year in New York, where he painted Union Square, displayed across the gallery in Self in the City. Another astutely observed scene of everyday life, it shows his stylistic progression to scenes more ambitious in scope and more vibrant in color. In 1882, Hahn returned to Europe, newly married to California artist Adelaide Rising.