A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
Episodes Search Site Map The Series Partners White Pine White Pine Home

Servant of God: German Painter, Berthold Imhoff
Directed by Hunt Hoe and Laura Turek


A German-born painter living in Pennsylvania took to the hinterlands of prairie Saskatchewan in the early 1900s, in pursuit of a life of peace and quiet to work in. Moving into a pioneer farming community, the formal, European-trained artist started a new life with his family, and pursued his art by painting local churches. Berthold Imhoff continued to paint until his death in 1939, when he died a poor man. But Imhoff left a rich artistic legacy behind him in Saskatchewan, including classsical religious frescoes on the walls of small town Saskatchewan churches, where they can be seen today.


  • Inspirational art
  • Middle class immigration
  • Discrimination against Germans during WWI and WWII


  • Homesteaders
  • The Depression’s effect on farmers
  • Fresco
  • Classic Renaissance Style
  • Representative Art


  • To understand how some people choose their careers by following their passions, not pursuing money
  • To see how religion and spirituality often ignites people's creativity
  • To understand the role of Germans in settling our country.


  1. What brought Imhoff to the west ?
  2. Did he make a lot of money from his paintings and church work?
  3. Why have Imhoff 's art works fallen out of favour?
  4. What style did Imhoff paint in?
  5. Why were the Imhoffs the "talk and envy" of their neighbors?
  6. Why do art critics say Imhoff is not an "original" painter?
  7. What did Imhoff's neighbors use to build their houses? What was Imhoff's house like?
  8. Why was the Imhoff family's lifestyle "out of synch" with his neighbours?
  9. What role did Imhoff's studio openings have on the local community?
  10. How were Imhoff and his work honoured during his lifetime?


1) Berthold Imhoff's religious paintings were based on traditional European styles of art. Look through a history of art book with large-sized, color paintings from the Renaissance (German, Italian, Netherlandish….). Spend some time learning about the style, then choose a painter and a painting you would like to imitate. Purchase or make (research!) the largest-size canvas you can, buy or borrow some paints from your school's art department , and spend at least one week working on your painting. In terms of subject matter, you may choose to make your painting as close as you can to the original you are looking at, or you may choose to use it as inspiration only. However, try to create your work of art in the same "style" as the original.

2) An artists' studio, like Imhoff's, can tell you a lot about what the artist is like and how they paint. Find pictures (photos, drawings) of other well-known artists' studios, and write an essay describing the studios and what they tell you about the artist (based on your research as well as your own personal observation.)

3) Imagine you are one of Berthold Imhoff's children in Saskatchewan. You are aware that your farming neighbors are a little leery of the way you and your family live (and particularly the way your father dresses!). You want to be accepted in your community, but you already know you would rather grow up to be an artist like your father than a farmer like them. Write a diary for one week about what it's like for you to live in the community, and describe how you are trying to win the acceptance and respect of your peers even though you are unlike them in many ways. Include the many interests and values you believe you share with your neighbors.

4) Berthold Imhoff became a "servant of God" through his art work. Describe someone you know or know about who has become "a servant of God" in another way, through religious work, profession, humanitarian aid/ human rights work, or through their day-to-day living. If you do not know someone to write about, do some research into your own religion, and find someone who you admire because of their work as "a servant of God." Explain what it is they have done, and why you believe they are truly doing "God's work." Feel free to write about someone who is doing what some might call "God's work," even though he/she may not believe in, or be specifically inspired by God to do their good works.

Top of page.