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Erhard Brielmaier (January 7, 1841 – August 29, 1917) was a renowned and prominent architect within United States and Canada from late 19th century through the 20th century. Erhard Brielmaier designed and built more churches and hospitals than any other architect.
Brielmaier was born at Neufra near Rottweil, Wuerttemberg. His mother immigrated to America with Brielmaier and his siblings in 1850 to join their father (a carpenter) who had settled in White Oak, Ohio, (now a suburb of Cincinnati. On November 27, 1860, Brielmaier married Theresia (née Haag) and they had 13 children. In 1873, the clan moved to Milwaukee, where Brielmaier worked his way from carpenter, sculpturer and altar-builder to that of an architect with a national reputation.
Brielmaier's sons (Bernard Anselm, Joseph Mary, and Leo Anthony) received special training in architecture, and together with them he formed the organization of Erhard Brielmaier & Sons Co., Architects, which constructed over a thousand Catholic Churches, schools and hospitals throughout the United States and Canada. Brielmaier had architecture offices in Chicago and Milwaukee in the late 19th century and 20th century. Where Louis Sullivan at the time concentrated on business commercial architecture buildings and Frank Lloyd Wright was designing houses, Erhard Brielmaier and Sons focused on the architecture of churches, hospitals (such as the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota) and schools and university buildings (such as the architecture at Marquette University).
In the Milwaukee area there are about thirty designated historical buildings status given to this architect and his sons. One of the most notable is Basilica of St. Josaphat within Milwaukee based on St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. It was designed with conservation in mind by using the materials from the dismantled Federal Building in Chicago. You can still view the Chicago Federal Building's postal emblems on the brass ornaments upon the entrance doors. At the time St. Josaphat's would boast of having the fifth largest cupola in the world. St. Josaphat church would later be conferred the dignity of basilica.
Saint Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, on Ninth and Mitchell in Milwaukee, is another historical church whose interior was designed by Brielmaier. The interior of the church is still original with the high altar, four side altars, and the pulpit having been designed and crafted by Erhard Brielmaier.
Brielmaier was much concerned about the education of his children who would follow the Brielmaier tradition and become artists. Brielmaier's oldest son, John (Johannes) Erhard Brielmaier (September 4, 1861–September 9, 1913), studied wood sculpturing in Stuttgart. Johannes' artwork is found throughout the United States, most notably in altars and sculptures. These artworks are known for their depth and elaborate carvings of magnificent detail.
Brielmaier's daughter, Clothilde Elisabeth Brielmaier (March 4, 1867–March 29, 1915), spent several years in Munich and Rome studying art. Her artwork can be viewed in Europe as well as the United States. In art history records she is credited with being the first woman to 'own' her own art studio in the United States and was credited as being an artist that could easily stand on her own alongside the male artists of her time. Much of Clothilde Brielmaier's paintings (especially the church murals within chapels and churches) have been destroyed over the years, either due to natural disaster or the 'simplification policy' of the Catholic Church. Some of her large portraits can be found in historical museums throughout the United States.
The following generation of Brielmaier artists to follow their grandfather, Erhard Brielmaier, into artworks of outstanding acclaim: Sr. Thomasita Fessler, sometimes referred (paintings artwork signatures) as SMT, Sr. T or Sr. Thomasita, was born Majella Nicola Fessler on February 23, 1912 died April 1, 2005. She was profiled by Life magazine in a feature story written by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Previous to the publication, Sr. Thomasita was asked by the church to reconsider whether she should she remain in the church due to what the church hierarchy thought they were "seeing" in her artwork. Sr. Thomasita's reply was, "if there was a sexual nature they were 'seeing' in her artwork, they should look within themselves for the answer to what 'they' were 'seeing'". Sr. Thomasita established the art department at Cardinal Stritch College, becoming the chair of the art department as well as founding the Studio San Damiano based on her philosophy of, "Nature is God's art and art is man's nature" as well as the Brielmaier tradition of, "A child who learns to create will not destroy."
Carl (Mary) R. Brielmaier (grandson of Erhard) continued the church painting tradition. Carl was born May 12, 1892. He left his immediate family before a teen and studied alongside Clothilde Brielmaier. Carl was known to use many different names within his life and work, including the name Erhard so the extent of artwork credited to him is variable. Much of the church painting he is definitively known to have created is within the midwestern United States mostly in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio. Carl R. Brielmaier only had about four fingers on both his hands and being German it was rumoured that this was due to his painting Jesus 'not the right hue' in a church mural. When confronted by the Nazis Carl was said to answer, " Jesus is disgraced by what His children are doing to His other children." Carl R. Brielmaier passed down this art tradition to his daughter Rose Brielmaier.