The Painted Forest is the work of a relatively unknown itinerant painter, Ernest Hupeden. In exchange for room and board (and sometimes booze), Hupeden would paint murals on businesses, halls and other buildings. The Painted Forest, in the Modern Woodman Camp building, Valton WI, was commissioned by the secret society/insurance company. Founded to insure woodsmen, an incredibly dangerous trade, Modern Woodman lodges sprung up all over the upper midwest. Part business, part club, part entertainment,part service group, secret societies were all the rage in the late 1800s.
The building and murals are remarkably well preserved. Hupeden started with a painting of the Battle of Manila on the stage backdrop, then worked his way around the room. Every inch of the walls and ceiling are covered with the story of the Modern Woodman’s initiation rites, intertwined with the woodman’s life in the forest, and scenes of widows cashing in life insurance.
Hupeden’s naive paintings are protected and preserved by the Kohler Foundation, which induces other locations Mary’s Nohl’s house, Grandview, James Tellen Sculpture Park and other rustic art environments.
The Painted Forest is a feature of the Hill and Valley Exploration Tour, which happens in September. Wander winding roads through amazingly beautiful scenery. Visit farms, wineries, small-town restaurants, cheese-makers, greenhouses and more. A perfect way to while away a gorgeous fall afternoon.
The Painted Forest
E846 Painted Forest Dr.
Valton, Wisconsin, 53968
Check this site for hours and special events before planning your visit.