August Will: A Lost Glimpse of Jersey City
In several recent posts, I’ve respectively mused upon the urban pastoral and Jersey City’s relationship with nature. During the nineteenth century, especially the decades following the American Civil War, Jersey City industrialized, rapidly shedding its village-like character and more bucolic features.
This transformation was captured by August Will, a book illustrator and artist. Will, a German immigrant, made his home and studio in Jersey City in 1855. He died in 1910. Between those years, he painted landscapes of his adopted hometown.
Unfortunately, very few–if any–of those pieces are publicly available for pleasure or study. The now-defunct Jersey City Museum held 350 of Will’s works. The museum closed its doors in 2010, and its entire collection has remained unseen ever since. Purportedly, Will’s works and the entire holdings of the museum are held in storage at New Jersey City University. (This information was gathered through a Twitter exchange.)
Late last year, the Jersey City government purchased property near Journal Square for a museum. Unfortunately, the city clearly stated that the historic Jersey City Museum collection would not be a part of any new institution.
One wonders when–and if–the public might again enjoy and explore August Will’s Jersey City. Without Will’s oeuvre, Jersey City can’t fully appreciate its own history .