350 Montgomery Street
Jersey City, New Jersey - NJ7302
One of the more interesting artists in Jersey City Museum's permanent collection is amateur photographer William Armbruster, noted for his pictorialist photographic style. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1865, Armbruster moved to the Greenville section of Jersey City at age 16 with his family. In Greenville, Armbrusters father, Charles, purchased Schuetzen Park, which became a recreational center for the public. After the death of his father, Armbruster gained control of the park and formed the Greenville Camera Club, fueled by his passion for photography. The club provided photographic equipment and a darkroom, which allowed its members to photograph portraits, still-lifes, marine subjects, and landscapes. Greenville, Schuetzen Park, Jersey City and many other areas in Hudson County and beyond, including Newark Bay and Free Acres became popular subjects for the artist's photographs.
The museum's collection of the artist's carbon and platinum prints represents his success with experimentation and with pictorial photography. His style endeavored to show the possibilities posed by using photography as an art form, rather than as mere scientific documentation. Influenced by Monet, Renoir, and other French Impressionists, Armbruster's works demonstrate the painterly characteristics photography could achieve. Land and seascape images feature a soft, poetic mood created by Armbruster's ability to capture natural light through a lens. Subjects in his works are often citizens from Jersey City photographed in their natural surroundings. Images of working class laborers and ordinary citizens, such as a group of clam diggers, a hunter, and a blacksmith, show the subjects personally involved in their work and craft. His style exemplifies Armbruster's early modern environment and underscores his attitude towards the role of work in daily life.
Illustrating the beauty of nature in the region, the self-taught photographer's prints were reproduced in newspapers and magazines, exhibited both nationally and abroad, and won several awards, gaining the artist recognition for his unique perspective on his environment. His work continues to be a significant part of our permanent collection and its interpretation.