John Tensfeld
(or Tensfield, Tensfeldt)
born circa 1830-1832, Germany, died 8 September 1893, 906 Autumn Street, St Louis, Missouri, USA, aged 63 years, buried no. 7366, Bellefontain Cemetery, St Louis, Missouri, USA.
Victoria, Australia 

John Tensfeld's Naturalisation Certificate dated 14 October 1859
Victoria, Australia, Index to Naturalisation Certificates, 1851-1928 [database on-line]. 
Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. 
Main Street, Daylesford
by J. Tensfeld, fl, 1862-1865,
Signed and dated in black paint l.r.: J. Tensfeld pinxt. / 1862
Purchased 1992. Collection of Mrs Joan McClelland until 1992.
Cowen Gallery, State Library of Victoria, 2003 onwards.
Contents/Summary:  Tensfeld depicts Vincent Street, Daylesford, in the middle of the afternoon - the street is quiet and women are strolling with parasols. The artist has exaggerated the street's width and scale of the buildings, particularly the steeply pitched roof and verandah of the merchants Buttner & Hallenstein. Tensfeld showed works at the 1863 Ballarat Mechanics Institute exhibition and at Melbourne's 4th Annual Exhibition of Fine Arts in 1864 where his entry Sunday Creek near Seymour was described by The Argus critic as 'stiff and chalky'. In 1865 Tensfeld set up a photographic studio with H Freyberger at 92 Bourke Street East. SLV Source ID: 1712906

John Tensfeld's oil painting showing a stable interior with two horses and a groom painted in 1863 [with a later frame].
 Signed and dated in black paint lower right: J. Tensfeld, 1863
69 cm x 49 cm 
This photograph kindly provided by the owner of the painting, Paul Tonner, Ontario, Canada, [2021].
Mr Fortune [picture framer, carver and gilder], of Victoria street, is at present exhibiting in his window a spirited oil painting by a German artist of ability named Tensfeld, who has for some time enjoyed reputation in this way in Castlemaine, Sandhurst, and other places, but is now desirous of settling down to his profession in Ballarat. The picture represents two entire horses in different stalls of a stable. One of them, a fine black charger, is looking on with a knowing air at the efforts of the groom to put the coat of the other (a white one) into order-no very easy matter, for the animal is very restive. This "action" has afforded the artist an opportunity of displaying his knowledge of anatomy and drawing, and he has not failed to avail himself of it. The result is, as we have stated, a really spirited picture. We shall be glad to find that Mr Tensfeld may obtain patronage for his easel in Ballarat.
The Star (Ballarat, Vic.), Thu 26 Mar 1863, Page 2

There is at present on view at Mr Fortune's premises, Victoria street, an oil painting by Mr Tensfeld representing the falls at Lal Lal [Lal Lal Falls]. The singular scenery of the place has been represented with great fidelity.
The Star (Ballarat, Victoria), 7 May 1863, Page 2
Messrs Solomon and Bardwell have produced splendid life-size portraits, in photography, of Mr and Mrs Baird, of Bridge street. They are of the largest of the kind ever produced in Victoria, and in every respect admirable, both as portraits and as works of art. Their excellence has been enhanced by their having been submitted to the easel of Mr J. Tensfeld.
The Star (Ballarat, Vic.), Fri 27 Nov 1863, Page 2

A brother may be Peter Eggert August Tensfeld born circa 1834, died in Victoria in 1859, reg. 8647/1859

Sudden Death. — A young man (a German) named Tensfield, came to an awfully sudden end on Tuesday last. It appears that for a few days he had been very constipated in his bowels, but was still in the best of apparent health and spirits. On Monday, with a party of friends, he went to the races, and while there enjoyed himself thoroughly, eating very heartily and drinking freely, but moderately. Towards evening, the rain coming down in torrents, he volunteered to go home and fetch coats, rugs, etc., for his friends. On returning through the bush he unfortunately missed the way, and was for two hours exposed to the heavy rain, he however reached his friends, and the whole party started home. Later in the evening, Mr Tensfield accidentally stumbled across a small surface hole, and falling on his stomach, felt some slight pain, but not sufficient for him to consider it necessary to obtain medical advice. In the morning he suffered considerably, and Dr Kupferberg was sent for, who immediately applied the usual remedies, but not sufficient for him to consider it necessary to obtain medical advise. In the morning he suffered considerably, and Dr Kupferberg was sent for, who immediately applied the usual remedies, but it was of no avail, the unfortunate young man gradually grew worse, the most intense thirst set in, and in a few hours all was over. The deceased, who on Monday last, was a fine hearty specimen of a noble young fellow, was by all who knew him admired for his goodness of heart and amiable disposition.

Mount Alexander Mail (Victoria, Australia), 30 Dec 1859, Page 4

Eggert Tensfeld's Naturalisation Certificate dated 12 October 1859
Victoria, Australia, Index to Naturalisation Certificates, 1851-1928 [database on-line]. 
Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. 

Freyberger and Tensfeld
Moritz Freyberger and John Tensfeld
 92 Bourke Street East, Melbourne
 about May 1864 to January 1865

Moritz Freyberger born circa 1838, died 5 April 1886, 4 Albert Terrace, Albert Street, East Melbourne aged 48 years.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), Wed 7 Apr 1886, Page 1

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), Mon 23 May 1864, Page 8

Freyberger & Tensfeld (Melbourne) fl 1865
Portrait of unidentified man. Ref: PA2-0747. 
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22800426

The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), Wed 18 Jan 1865, Page 3

departed Melbourne 31 May 1866 on the s.s. "Albambra". Passenger named "Mr Tensfeld"
aged 30 years (1836). Public Record Office, Victoria, Outward Passengers index

arrived Port Chambers 6 June 1866 on the s.s. "Albambra" from Melbourne via Bluff. Passenger named "Tensfi-ld". Otago Daily Times, Issue 1386, 7 June 1866

departed Port Chambers 26 June 1866 on the s.s. "Claud Hamilton" for Northern
Ports. Passenger named "Tewsfield". Otago Daily Times, Issue 1403, 27 June 1866

arrived Greymouth 4 July 1866 on the s.s. "Claud Hamilton" from Dunedin via Lyttelton, Wellington and Nelson. Landed at Greymouth by the s.s. "Persevere". Passenger named "Twsfeld". Grey River Argus, Issue 75, 5 July 1866

[ca 1867]
Reference number: 1/2-004777-F
The Alexander Turnbull Library

New Zealand
from 4 July 1866 to 4 May 1870

Mawhera Quay
succeeded Tait Bros. in Greymouth c. July 1866
succeeded by John Low in Greymouth c. August 1867


Grey River Argus , Issue 81, 19 July 1866, Page 3

At an amateur concert Mr Tensfeldt an others sung "Banish Oh Maiden" he also sung Lanner's German song, "The Tambour" and Weber's "Lutzow's Wild Hunt". 
Grey River Argus, Issue 110, 25 September 1866, Page 2


We have inspected an oil color painting of the Grey River from the shipping quay, the work of Mr Tensfeldt, of this town. It is more particularly a shipping subject, the most prominent objects being two schooners at their moorings, but sufficient of the scenery on the Nelson side of the river is given to afford an idea of the artist's skill as a landscape painter. Mr Tensfeldt is evidently an artist of considerable ability, the small painting we refer to being in good keeping, well drawn, and judiciously colored. We trust he will turn his attention more particularly to some of the charming bits of scenery which this neighborhood affords, and we feel sure many persons would be glad to become possessors of his paintings. 
Grey River Argus, Issue 113, 2 October 1866, Page 2

On the visit of the Governor to Greymouth in 1867,  J. Tensfield was present at a levee held in his honour at the Courthouse.
Grey River Argus, Volume III, Issue 163, 29 January 1867, Page 2

Mr Tensfeldt will, during the week, dispose of, by ticket, several oil paintings of local scenery, all of which are in the best style of art. One of the views up the river is a gem, and would rank with one of Chevatlier's best efforts. Mr Tensfeldt is an artist of high order, and his paintings are well worth a place in any gallery.
Grey River Argus, Volume III, Issue 183, 16 March 1867

Many of our readers must, in passing the establishment of Mr. Otto Weisenhavern, tobacconist, of Trafalgar-street, have noticed a very lifelike and artistic portrait of the proprietor, exhibited in the window. On inquiry, we find that it was executed by Mr. Tensfeld, a German artist, who has been staying for some time at Greymouth, and who wishes to visit Nelson, should sufficient inducement offer. In other words, Mr. Tensfeld is anxious to find 20 sitters at £7 each, including a handsome frame, and we are told that of this number seven or eight names are already enrolled. We cannot doubt that many of our citizens will readily embrace this opportunity of obtaining a really good and durable portrait, either of themselves or of their families.

Nelson Evening Mail, Volume II, Issue 98, 29 April 1867, Page 2

Judging from the specimens which have been submitted to us, Mr Tensfeld's successor will fully and efficiently supply the local demand for photographic views and portraits. Mr Low comes from Auckland, and his portfolio contains many excellent specimens of the photographer's art, and will interest any of our Auckland friends. We wish the newcomer every success. 
 Grey River Argus, Issue 254, 29 August 1867, Page 2

Mr Tensfield, an artist of very deserved repute, in Hokitika, from the excellency of his productions, has just completed a very beautiful series of photographic views of Westland scenery. They compose three views of Hokitika — the entrance to the river, the block of churches, and Gibson's Quay, Greymouth, Blaketown, Ross, Westport, Charleston, Cobden, and Arthur's Pass, the mountain boundary between Canterbury and Westland. The whole series of views are in the finest style of photographic art, and enclosed in a most tastefully designed cover from the pencil of Mr Schmidt, constitute an album or portfolio of Westland scenery that will make a very handsome and acceptable present to send to friends.
West Coast Times, Issue 748, 15 February 1868, Page 2

from about 1868 to 1869

above - a portrait by John Tensfeld, Princes Street, opposite New Post office, Dunedin

Mr John Tensfield, artist, Princes street, has just published a new "Photographic Souvenir," containing twenty very good photographs of "important and interesting places" in New Zealand. Every publication of this description is interesting, not only to those who live in the Colony, but to friends and the public at Home. The beautiful scenery of New Zealand cannot fail to draw attention when exhibited in works of art like that compiled by Mr Tensfield, while the photographs of churches, public buildings, ports, and towns, so practically demonstrate the rapid advancement of the Colony that it is hardly possible to employ a more effective emigration agency than a wide diffusion of them would prove. Mr Tensfield has bound the sketches up in a neat volume, well fitted to lie on a drawing-room table.
Otago Witness, Issue 873, 22 August 1868, Page 11

Art and Manufactures.
Mr John Tensfield, artist, Princes street, has just published a new "Photographic Souvenir," containing twenty very good photographs of "important and interesting places" in New Zealand. Every publication of this description is interesting, not only to those who live in the Colony, but to friends and the public at Home. The beautiful scenery of New Zealand cannot fail to draw attention when exhibited in works of art like that compiled by Mr Tensfield, while the photographs of churches, public buildings, ports, and towns, so practically demonstrate the rapid advancement of the Colony that it is hardly possible to employ a more effective emigration agency than a wide diffusion of them would prove. Mr Tensfield has bound the sketches up in a neat volume, well fitted to lie on a drawing-room table.
Otago Daily Times, Issue 2055, 5 September 1868

An Art Union of oil paintings, photographic albums, &c, will shortly be held by Mr Tensfeld, artist, Princes street. The prizes, which are fifty in number, comprise many valuable paintings and richly-mounted photographic albums.
Otago Daily Times, Issue 2109, 7 November 1868 

Otago Daily Times, Issue 2111, 10 November 1868


Mr Tensfeld's art union of pictures, &c, came off yesterday afternoon, in the large room over Mr Hogg's music saloon. The drawing was conducted to the satisfaction of those present, Mr Wm. Gregg and Mr H. F. Hardy taking charge of the bags with the tickets contained therein, the former drawing the prizes and the latter the duplicate numbers of the tickets sold.
Otago Daily Times, Issue 2161, 8 January 1869

The Otago Fine Arts Exhibition - February 1869
No 57 — Fern Tree Creek. Greymouth, by Tensfeld, exhibited by Mr F. Dixon - is a a nice picture, with a good bit of delicate sky showing through the tops of the trees. Its pleasing effect is, however, to some extent marred by the discord caused by a too violent contrast between the bight green of the foliage and the decided brown of the stems.

Otago Daily Times, Issue 2195, 17 February 1869 

The Fine Arts Exhibition, Dunedin 1869
No. 40, a painting by Tensfeld of Fox's (West Coast), exhibited by Mr Evans, shows some good sky and tolerably fair landscape painting. 
Otago Witness, Issue 899, 20 February 1869, Page 8

Otago Fine Arts Exhibition 1869
No. 222, Fern Trees, pointed and exhibited by Mr Tenafeld, is a good painting, whose appropriate sombreness of tone is nicely relieved by a bit of cool grey sky seen through the tangled fern fronds at the top and back of the picture.

Otago Daily Times, Issue 2228, 27 March 1869

from about 1869 to 1870

Mr. Bartlett's Studio.
Some time ago we noticed the excellent portrait-painting which was being executed at the studio of Mr. Bartlett, Upper Queen street. We now learn that there has been a very large demand for these portraits, and that every day orders are coming in. We are sincerely glad of this, for an artist of Mr. Tensfeld's rare ability merits the heartiest support, and the fact that he has found full employment for his skill in Auckland is an additional proof that a cultivated taste for the higher kinds of art already exists here, young as the community is. Hitherto there has been a great want here of a really first class artist, and those who desired to have their portraits have only been able to procure them at much inconvenience and expense.

The presence of an artist of Mr. Tensfeld's ability, however, has been the means of stimulating quite a taste for high art. It was fortunate that Mr. Tensfeld found a good deal of the way smoothed before him by his connection with Mr. Bartlett, whose superior photography has made his studio famous throughout the colony. As we have explained on a former occasion, the outlines are first taken by the aid of the camera. Yesterday had the pleasure of inspecting two very beautiful paintings of dogs in Mr. Bartlett's gallery. The one is the breed of a greyhound, and the other of a terrier. Each is itself a specimen of a peculiar type of excellency. In the head of the greyhound the smooth natural curve of the outlines is remarkable, as well as the skilful manner in which the background is made to give prominence and convexity to the picture. In the other picture, that of the terrier, the chief characteristic is the excellence of the colouring, the natural play of the long wiry hair, and the intelligent expression of quiet watchfulness which is thrown into the animal's face. This, we should imagine, is one of the best feature on all Tensfeld's painting, as we have remarked it in many of the portraits painted by him. We also had the pleasure of inspecting a number of photographic views of business houses, and the scenery at the Thames goldfield. Those, we need hardly say, are remarkable for that clearness and accuracy of detail which are observable in all Mr. Bartlett's work, and we are not surprised to learn that these views are much in request in the sister provinces and the Australian colonies. Those who desire to see what colonial art can do would derive much pleasure from a Visit to Mr. Bartlett's gallery. 
Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXV, Issue 3839, 10 December 1869, Page 4

Mr. Bartlett's Studio.
We have have had the pleasure of inspecting at Mr. Bartlett's Studio, Queen-street, some very fine photographic views which have been taken to the order of Mr. Wayte, for his new map of the Thames goldfield. The subjects consist of the principal business places, and public buildings at the Thames and Auckland; and in the selection which Mr. Bartlett has made he has displayed much taste and judgment. The photography is beautifully clear, and the focus has evidently been well chosen. This is one of the chief characteristics of all Mr. Bartlett's photographs, while ordinary photographers cannot produce a clear picture with the best camera, or in the most favourable atmosphere. The skilful artist will contrive by carefully turning to account the most trivial advantage, to compensate for natural drawbacks. Mr. Bartlett also adds to this great judiciousness of taste in the selecting of a favourable aspect for his pictures, and this is one of those points in winch inferior artists most fail, simply because they are too apt to forget that success in photography, as in many other arts, depends more upon cultivated taste and judgment, than upon mere mechanical skill. A photographer, in the best sense of the word, is not, as many people suppose, a mere mechanist, and certainly Mr. Bartlett is not one. One need only examine the views to which we refer to see this, without seeing the many other works which have emanated from Mr. Bartlett's studio. Mr. Wayte, we believe, intends to send the views to Melbourne to be lithographed, so as to issue them in connection with his large map of the Thames goldfield. We feel sure that these photographs will do credit to New Zealand. We mentioned some time ago that Mr. Bartlett had, in conjunction with Mr. Tensfield, commenced the production of lifelike portraits, and that the project bids fair to be a success. We are glad to learn now that so numerous were the orders for these portraits, that the original idea of forming a kind of art union had to be abandoned. The portraits already executed comprise those of most people of note in Auckland, but a great many more orders remain to be completed. 
Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXVI, Issue 3910, 4 March 1870, Page 3

Mr Tensfield was a passenger on the s.s. "City of Melbourne" sailed 4 May 1870 from the Port of Auckland for Honolulu.

Brooklyn, New York, USA
 from about 1874

Mr John Tensfeld
He possesses a Falstaffian presence and if De Bar could have looked upon his ample proportions he would have sickened with envy; standing fully six feet in height, with a bluff, jolly bearing, he comes down upon you in the street like a mountain of good nature, shaking you warmly by the hand and fairly overwhelming you with his personality. Tensfeld is a man of the world, in the broadest sense of the term, and he can entertain you for days if he wishes with personal adventures in all parts of the globe. 

He was born in Germany, but left that country when quite young, and he has since lived in England, France, India, Australia, the Sandwich Islands, California, and in fact all parts of the world. He made a small fortune in Australia (not in art, of course), lost a good part of it in bringing a lot of cannibals to America, went back to his art in California, and finally arrived in Brooklyn, where he has been actively identified with art matters for the past five or six years. 

Tensfeld is at home at once with both high and low, and a better companion or more entertaining talker it would be difficult to find. He measures his man on the instant, with a keen knowledge of human nature that always enables him to strike upon something that will be entertaining o his listener, and then he will hold him for hours, touching upon one thing and another throughout his experience that is sure to prove of interest to his companion, and in nine cases out often leaving the latter with a tremendously high opinion of Tensfeld's acquaintance with men and manners throughout the world. 

His theory of painting is that a true artist should be universal and able to master one subject as well as another. This theory is seen in his work. At times he may be found working on a figure picture, and he will throw this aside to take up a landscape, or perhaps you will discover him at work on a portrait. Although he has engaged in the most practical lines of business, he is a true lover of art for its own sake, and undoubtedly regrets the years he has devoted to other occupations, even though they have brought him a fortune. 

During his residence in Brooklyn he has gained many friends, both among the studios and in business circles, and is to-day quite firmly established as a Brooklyn artist and more especially as a portrait painter.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 14 August 1879, page 3 

St Louis, Missouri, USA
circa 1882 to 1893

 marriage record of John Tensfeld of Chicago and Joanna Schoettler of St Louis dated 18 May 1882.
Missouri, County Marriage, Naturalization, and Court Records, 1800-1991, FamilySearch 
 Marriage licenses 1881-1882 no 1-3717 
image 594 of 651; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.

Nearly all St. Louis artists have to give place to Mr. John Tensfeld, whose studio is located at 418 1/2 Olive street. Mr. Tensfeld is a native of Germany and devoted his early life to studying in that country under the first masters. His studio is located on the fifth floor, being always accessible by elevator, and the light is all that can be desired. All will remember his famous portraits of the late General Sherman, painted from life for the Ransom Post and the Blair Post. He has also just completed a realistic landscape from the Wagon Wheel Gap in Colorado, showing the Indians in full chase of buffalos with grand mountain scenery in the back-ground. His celebrated centennial picture "Good Night" is always fresh in our minds. Mr. Tensfeld is a gentleman of about sixty years of age and an indispensable authority on all things pertaining to art. - Pen and Sunlight Sketches of Saint Louis: The Commercial Gateway to the South. Chicago: Phoenix Publishing Company, 1892.

Portrait of Sarah Jones, wife of John Jones, by John Tensfeld about 1868, University of Otago Library.


Anonymous said...

I own an original signed oil portrait by John N. Tensfeld. I live in St Louis, MO
I would like to communicate with someone about this portrait and other belongings of his.

I believe it may be a portrait of Henry Longfellow. I own a book, "Evangeline,", Issued Weekly Number 1, March 17, 1886, Houghton, Mifflin & Company. On the second page of the cover is a photograph of Longfellow. The inside cover has a hand written script - Anna Tensfeld High School J.10. . . .

About 20 years ago ? Tensfeld gave this painting to my artist friend who is deceased. At that time, I believe that she gave him a small oil painting of a thatched roof house/landscape, European scene, by H. Y. Adams, a European artist who also ended up living in St Louis, MO. I own this painting, also.

Early Canterbury Photography said...

Hello, thank you for your message about Tensfeld. It would be wonderful if you could somehow find relatives of Tensfeld, but I have no idea if he now has any living descendants.

If you have a photo of the painting or any information about Tensfeld I would be happy to published it on this site. best wishes, Tony in New Zealand

Paul Tonner said...

A Tensfeld painting of two horses is described on Page 1 of the material on Tensfeld.

We own this 1863 painting by Tensfeld. Would be happy to provide a photo and more information on request.

Paul Tonner
Deep River, Ontario, Canada