German born August Laux achieved a considerable reputation in the 1870s for his frescoes and decorative paintings, but switched to genre scenes and still lifes a decade later. His work, always traditional in style, was highly regarded in his day but forgotten soon after his death.
He was born in the Pfalz area of the Rhineland in 1847 to French parents. Members of his mother's family held important positions in the government of Strasburg; one of his uncles and a cousin were sculptors in Paris. One story has it that, during a visit to his uncle's studio while he was a child, the young Laux took a mallet and a chisel to try his hand at sculpting, unbeknown to his elders, and managed to ruin a work in progress. True or not, the boy did show an aptitude for sculpting and was encourage to work in clay.
Soon after his parents emigrated to New York City in 1863, he begun studying sculpture. In 1867, however, he switched to painting and enrolled in classes at the National Academy of Design. His first painting was exhibited there in 1870. Three years later Laux was commissioned to paint the scenery for the private theater of a club in Manhattan. The results were so successful that he was soon much in demand for frescoes and decorations in hotel and other buildings, as well as in such magnificent private homes as those of financier Jay Gould and Andrew Garvey.
Laux turned to genre painting, still lifes and landscape sketches after 1880. He continued to work in this vein until his death in Brooklyn in 1921.
Mantle Fielding's, Dictionary of American Paintings, Sculptors & Engravers, pg. 523
Falk, Who Was Who in American Art, pg. 320
Gerdts & Burke, American Still Life Painting, pg. 162
Zellman, 300 Years of American Art, pg. 421