I love this painting. It is hanging in the library in Idaho Springs, Colorado. When my mother-in-law and I set out to research and find out who Naylor Lake was named after, we never imagined that we would enjoy so much finding out about the lives of these interesting people that have passed on before us. Here is what I found out about Fred Huet the artist:
Fred Huet, painter of the beautiful depiction of Naylor Lake, was one of those colorful characters who caught the Colorado gold fever in 1864. For that obsession he gave up his art – his true calling in life – for almost 20 years until his health failed him. He ended his days in a poorhouse in Empire and was buried in the Empire Cemetery in 1916.
Fred was born in France in 1826 to …”My mothaire – God grant her peace! (here he devoutly crossed himself)- was an Italian ladee, my fathaire a ver’ fine Frenchman…” as quoted by Lafayette Hanchette from his book The Old Sheriff. His parents sacrificed much to send him to Paris to study art at the Acadamie Francaise and after graduation he sailed with a group of Huguenots to America, hoping for better opportunity. Once in Boston he was discovered by Madame Frank Leslie and began to sketch for the Frank Leslie Weekly Magazine in New York. Leslie then sent him to Colorado to sketch the gold camps, the miners, the Indians and anything else the readers might find of interest.
He found Denver bustling with excitement and sent many sketches back to Boston until he was struck with gold fever. Using the funds that Leslie provided, he outfitted himself and for seven months climbed the mountains searching for gold – never painting anything, never sending anything back to Leslie. When he returned to Denver he purchased a recent copy of Leslie’s magazine only to find that it contained his obituary informing the readers that he had disappeared for many months and was probably killed by Indians, but also remembering him as “the best artist in Boston”.
Fred Huet decided to leave it so, to let the artist die, and returned to the mountains pursuing his passion – gold mining. He claimed his mine a few miles from Empire in Miller Gulch and called it “La Belle Parisienne”, but whenever he needed money he would paint another incredible painting and sell it. Sometimes it would be raffled off by Huet’s good friend Louis Dupuy, owner of the Hotel de Paris in Georgetown.
Around 1882, his failing health forced him to abandon his profession as a miner and the artist revived. In 1884, his studio was a livery stable in Georgetown which was later moved to more suitable quarters where he gave lessons in painting.
In the The Old Sheriff, Fred Huet explained, “My studio is the beeg outdoors. My model is the mountain, the river, the lake, the storm, the deer, the bear, the buffalo, sometime just a little cheepmunk – anything I ‘appen to like!”
It took Huet ten months to paint Naylor Lake in 1890-91, which was to be his masterpiece. I think you will agree that his painting of Naylor Lake, as he stood in his “studio” by the shoreline, depicts the beauty and grandeur of the mountain, the lake, the pine trees, the clouds and the sky.
The Old Sheriff and Other True Tales by Lafayette Hanchette, 1937
“The Fe-vaire” pages 51-60
Thanks to Sally Buckland of Empire for sharing her knowledge of this painting, the artist and area history with us.
And thanks to Amber Van Vleet for translating the article about Frederic Huet in the Dictionnaire des artistes de lange francaise en Amerique du Nord: peintres… By David Karel