Henry Mosler was born in Troplowitz, Silesia, the eldest son of Gustave and Sophie Mosler. In 1849 the family left Prussia to come to New York and were among the 200,000 German-Jewish immigrants who came to United States between 1830 and 1880. Individual freedom was especially important to German Jews and many left to come to America for great political and civil rights. Henry's father Gustave was trained as a lithographer and after 2 years in New York, moved his family to Cincinnati. At a young age Henry began drawing lessons and first worked as a wood engraver. He eventually began professional art training in 1859 and became an active participant in Cincinnati's art community and supported himself through commissions for portraits.
Beginning in 1861 Mosler began working as an artist correspondent for Harper's Weekly, a voice for the Union forces during the American Civil War. Like most Jews in the North, Mosler was a strong Union supporter and served as an aide-de-camp from 1861 to 1863 serving with the army of Ohio. This drawing of the First Ohio Zouave Regiment departing Cincinnati was one of his earliest commissions for Harper's. He ultimately had 34 drawings published in the weekly with 18 depicting the Kentucky and Ohio Campaign in 1862.
After the war Mosler continued his art training in Düsseldorf and Paris between 1863 to 1865 becoming a notable painter. After returning to Cincinnati for close to eight years, he then lived in Munich and later Paris where his output now focused on genre painting which he then pursued through the rest of his career. While in Paris in 1879, the French government bought its first American painting, Le Retour, a painting by Moser which won an honorable mention in the Paris Salon of 1879. Moser continued to win many honors in France and was established himself a painter of importance in both American and French artistic circles. In 1894 he returned to the United States to settle in New York where he continued to work until his death in 1920. Moser stands as one of the gifted American artists to emerge in the latter half of the 19th century and one of the first Jewish American artists to establish an international reputation especially in the Academic art circles of the time.
This image is taken from the Smithsonian's AAPG Library's collection of Civil War issues of Harper's Weekly. The primary source for Henry Mosler's biography above is: Henry Mosler Rediscovered: A Nineteenth-Century American-Jewish Artist by Barbara C. Gilbert (Los Angeles: Skirball Museum, 1995).—Doug Litts