“Steamboat Bunkerhill” (1838)
Jürgen Frederick Hugè was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1809. He emigrated to Bridgeport, CT as a young man, it’s unclear as to exactly when, but his marriage, sometime around 1830, to Mary Shelton, the daughter of a prominent Bridgeport family, indicates that he had probably been in the area for some time. This marriage may have prompted the gradual anglicizing of Hugè’s name from Jürgen Friedrich to J. Frederick. Throughout his adult life in Bridgeport, Hugè seems to have combined his occupation as a grocer with the artistic activities for which he has earned recognition today. He was a painter of steam and sailing craft for over 40 years, as well as local landscapes and buildings in Bridgeport. Of the approximately fifty known examples of his work, most are renderings of sailing and steam vessels, which recall the artist’s youth as a seaman. He and his brother worked on ships early in life and are rumored to have been ship captains as well. In 1838 he made the signed and dated watercolor of the steamboat Bunkerhill, one of his other renderings, the steamer New Haven had already been reproduced in lithographic form. His settings are filled with life and activity, projecting an image of prosperity and well-being. Hugè’s thorough use of watercolors are ambitious in scale as well as in content, some reaching three or four feet in length.
“Ballance Drydock” (1877)
Little is known of his life before he immigrated to Connecticut, except that his brother Peter accompanied him; and he later brought his mother to live with him. Hugè’s precise rendering of ships and associated maritime features, as seen in New-York Ballance Drydock (1877), lends support to the suggestion that he had some prior familiarity with oceangoing activities. His paintings of local architecture-such as Burroughs (1876), a building in Bridgeport-document notable local scenes with great accuracy but with an artistic license that provides the most complete and compelling view.
“The Burroughs” (1876) Hangs in the Bridgeport Public Library.
J.F. Hugè is buried in Mountain Grove Cemetery, Bridgeport CT.