Wandering Wisconsin


Ernest Hüpeden (c. 1850–1911) immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1878 as a young man seeking a fresh start. During the next twenty years he traveled on foot from New York to Wisconsin. Hüpeden survived by exchanging paintings for food and lodging. During his wanderings, he created images of American life that touch on the nostalgia, patriotism, aspirations, and values of his patrons.

Hüpeden’s most well-known work is an art environment featuring a series of painted murals that line the entire interior of a fraternal meeting lodge in Valton, Wisconsin. Called “The Painted Forest,” this work represents the zenith of Hüpeden’s known production. “The Painted Forest” murals, painted from 1897–1899, offer not only a glimpse of the past and evocative imagery of the time, but also depict a metaphoric depiction of a life safeguarded by the fraternal brotherhood of the Modern Woodmen Association. Hüpeden literally covered every inch of wall space including the arched ceiling, window frames, wainscoting, and windows.

Painted Forest Dr.
Valton, WI
(608) 663-4861
Saturdays, 1:00–3:00 p.m. or by appointment; please call ahead of time.

untitled (six-panel painted cabinet)