Historical painting from 1914 moved to Kimmswick museum | Local News

Historical painting from 1914 moved to Kimmswick museum | Local News

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A painting that’s more than 100 years old and once hung in a Kimmswick restaurant before being stored in various buildings around the river town has found a home.

The piece, called “Early Days on the Mississippi River,” is now hanging in the Kimmswick Historical Society museum, 6000 Third Ave.

It was painted in 1914 by J.U. Tschudi, a scenic artist whose family immigrated to America from Switzerland.

Historical Society president Diane Nagy said the museum has rearranged its displays to make room for the large painting, which was restored before it was hung there.

The museum also has an exhibit showing the old painting when it was on display in the Old House restaurant, what it looked like when it was given to the Historical Society and what it looked like after a small portion of the piece was restored.

“People were amazed at where (the restored painting) started and how it finished,” she said.

The painting

“Early Days on the Mississippi River” is 57-by-57 inches and depicts several Native Americans rowing a canoe on the Mississippi River, Nagy said.

She said the painting was hung in the former Old House restaurant, which is now the LaChance Winery of Kimmswick, from about 1978 to about 1990.

“It hung in the Ulysses S. Grant room, the first room on the right. There is a fireplace in there and when the exhaust fan from the kitchen was turned on, it blew soot out of the fireplace onto the painting,” she said. “ It was really bad.”

Along with being dirty, Nagy said at one point a customer tipped a chair back and crashed into the painting, ripping part of it.

When the restaurant closed, Nagy said, the late Kevin Kraemer purchased the building and later stored the painting in various other buildings he owned in town. Kraemer’s wife, Nancy, gave the painting to the Historical Society in December 2022.

Nagy said she contacted Kodner Galleries about the painting and was put in touch with Irek Szelag, an art conservationist, so the painting could be restored.

Nagy would not say how much the Historical Society paid to have the painting restored, but she said it took about a year for Szelag to complete the restoration.

“He finished it in January. It is absolutely beautiful,” she said.

While the painting was being restored, Nagy contacted Wendy Rae Waszut-Barrett, an art historian who knew of Tschudi.

Waszut-Barrett wrote about the painting on drypigment.net and said she believes Tschudi created the piece to advertise the Pageant and Masque of St. Louis that was held in 1914 on Art Hill in Forest Park to commemorate the city’s 150th anniversary.

“(Waszut-Barrett) was sure this painting was not made to hang in someone’s home,” Nagy said. “It was sewn onto a piece of wood, and it wasn’t professionally framed.”

Nagy said a man whose family owned a tent and awning company in St. Louis and used to sell Tschudi canvases contacted her after hearing about the painting and said the painting had been displayed in the St. Louis Rowing Club on South Broadway before the group relocated to Maryland Heights.

The man also said his family ended up with the painting, and after storing it for a number of years, they sold it in an auction, Nagy said.

“It is amazing,” she said of finding out about the painting’s history. “I can’t wait to see what happens when more people find out about the painting.”


Nagy said because of the size of the painting, the Historical Society rearranged the museum’s layout.

“I had it in my mind for a couple of years to do, and I used this as an opportunity,” she said.

“We are very happy with the way it looks now.”

The painting is displayed on one of the museum’s walls, and special lighting was added to highlight the piece.

“Hopefully, people will stop by the museum to see it,” Nagy said. “It is beautiful. It is a piece of history. We are just pleased to have it.”

The museum is open from 1-4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and tours are available by reservation by calling 636-464-8687.