Born in Ghent, Flanders, Belgium, Wilhelm Karel Anthonius Frerichs moved with his family to The Hague in the Netherlands while still a small child. He is reputed to have begun his studies at The Hague’s Royal Academy of Art around 1835 with the noted Dutch romantic landscape painter Andreas Schelfhout. Encouraged by Major August Davasae, the American Charge d'Affaires who admired the young artist’s talent, Frerichs immigrated to New York in 1850. By 1852, he had begun to exhibit at the National Academy.

Frerichs arrived in America at the high tide of the Hudson River School. Painters like Thomas Cole and his student Frederic Edwin Church were inspired by a much cherished landscape. A teaching position in Greensboro, North Carolina lured Frerichs to the South, where he found his own muse in the mountains and valleys of the Southern Highlands. Late in the Civil War, Frerichs was conscripted by Confederate forces as a civil engineer in the Sauratown Mountains—an area north of Greensboro where he had frequently hiked and sketched—and was reportedly captured by Union forces on three different occasions. In the wake of a failed attempt at farming in the eastern part of North Carolina, Frerichs and his family moved to New York in 1865, and he remained in the area for the balance of his life.

Frerichs painted an idealized mountainous location he named Tamahaka several times, often incorporating many of his favored aesthetic components, most notably the waterfall. As evidenced by the known body of work based on his observations and sketches in western North Carolina, Frerichs continued to paint that vibrantly animated territory for the rest of his active career. More than half of his surviving work is based on Southern material, quite a tribute considering the brief time he spent there and the nearly forty years he worked in the greater New York area. Frerichs’s work can be found in the collections of the North Carolina Museum of Art, Newark Museum of Art, Columbus (Georgia) Museum of Art and Morris Museum of Art.