Director: Hunt Hoe & Laura
In their film Servant of God, German Painter, Berthold Imhoff, directors
Hunt Hoe and Laura Turek tell the astonishing story of German immigrant
Berthold Imhoff, who left a successful fresco business in Pennsylvania
in 1914, and settled with his family near St. Walburg, in northwestern
Saskatchewan. Instead of the promise of riches, the 45 year old was lured
by the secluded setting where he could devote his time to painting churches
and pursuing his favorite passion: hunting.
Imhoff was born in 1868 in Bavaria, Germany and displayed a remarkable
artistic talent at an early age, winning a much-coveted scholarship to
the Berlin Academy of Art. After his studies, Imhoff immigrated to the
United States and began work painting public buildings, homes and churches
throughout the area. Yet Imhoff coveted peace and quiet more than notoriety,
and it was the pursuit of a locale where he could paint undisturbed which
eventually brought him to Saskatchewan.
Fortune turned against Imhoff with the outbreak of World War I, and later,
the Great Depression. There was no money for non-essentials like church
decorating. Relying on the modest earnings from his farm to support his
family, Berthold continued to decorate dozens of catholic churches across
the province, generously donating his time and effort. In 1921, Berthold
Imhoff built a large studio on his farm, creating the first art gallery
in the remote area.
In 1937, Imhoff was knighted by Pope Pius IX into the Order of St. Gregory
the Great for his generosity to the Catholic Church. Berthold refused
to slow down and continued to paint everyday in his studio until his death
Directors Hunt Hoe and Laura
Turek have created a gorgeous tapestry of visuals, juxtaposing the simplicity
of prairie scenery and light with the ornate decorative flourishes of
church art. Combining archival photographs with family interviews, the
film honours one of western Canada’s most generous and artistic
artists, German immigrant Berthold Imhoff.