Self-taught artist Ernest Hupeden worked throughout southern Wisconsin, often exchanging his paintings for lodging and meals. He painted murals, landscapes, and portraits. His work can be found on bottles, plates, and furniture, and he often used boards, tar paper, or mattress ticking as a painting surface. Hupeden covered the walls with murals at Modern Woodmen Camp #6190 in Valton, Wisconsin, now known as the Painted Forest; this by far is his most important work.
In addition to taking on the restoration of the Painted Forest and Hupeden’s murals, Kohler Foundation has aggressively sought other examples of Hupeden’s work. A substantial collection of his painting resides at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and at the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum in Madison, Wisconsin. Kohler Foundation has made gifts of art to both collections.
As individual pieces have been found in attics, unheated workshops, barns, and homes, condition has varied dramatically, and some of the paintings have provided conservation challenges. In each case, the works have received expert conservation treatment prior to gifting.