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    Sale 2058

    Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture

    4 December 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 36

    Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939)

    Giverny Landscape

    Price Realised  

    Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939)
    Giverny Landscape
    signed and inscribed 'to my friend Biddle/-F.C.Frieseke-' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    25 x 30 in. (63.5 x 76.2 cm.)
    Painted in 1915-16.


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    *This lot may be exempt from sales tax as set forth in the Sales Tax Notice in the back of the catalogue.

    Executed at the height of Frederick Frieseke's career Giverny Landscape is superlative of the artist's paintings of the landscapes and gardens surrounding his home in the French countryside. Frieseke's mastery of light, color and pattern makes Giverny Landscape a consummate example of his oeuvre.

    The origin of Frieseke's light palette and interest in the theme of pastoral images and plein air painting originated with his study at both the Académie Julian and with James McNeill Whistler at Académie Carmen in Paris in 1898. Frieseke closely studied and adopted the Impressionist technique, approach and choice of subject matter that he molded to suit his own aesthetic objectives. Although the French Impressionists had been exhibiting for 40 years, the Americans in Paris often continued to paint in the academic style. "For many among the patient and obedient, the nightly prayer must have been for a potent force to reach out of the sky and smite them with a calling to 'high color'." (N. Kilmer, "Frederick Carl Frieseke: A Biography" in Frederick Carl Frieseke: The Evolution of an American Impressionist, Savannah, Georgia, 2001, p. 20) Frieseke finally received his calling in 1901 and his style changed dramatically to incorporate the bright light, color and short brushstrokes of the French Impressionist painters.

    In the summer of 1906, Frieseke settled in Giverny where the landscape, sunshine and freedom to paint as he wanted inspired him to remain there for almost two decades. Giverny was an artist colony led by French Impressionist Claude Monet that had been favored by American artists including Theodore Butler, Willard Metcalf, Richard Miller, Theodore Robinson and Guy Rose. Notice of the group of American Impressionists appeared swiftly in the press. In October 1887, a critic for The Art Amateur suggested that the development of an Impressionist expatriate style was immediate and profound: "Quite an American colony has gathered, I am told, at Givernay [sic], seventy miles from Paris, on the Seine, the home of Claude Monet, including our Louis Ritter, W. L. Metcalf, Theodore Wendell [sic], John Breck, and Theodore Robinson of New York. A few pictures just received from these young men show that they have got the blue-green color of Monet's impressionism and 'got it bad.'" ("Boston Art and Artists," The Art Amateur, 17, no. 5, October 1887, p. 93, as quoted in R. H. Love, Theodore Earl Butler: Emergence from Monet's Shadow, Chicago, Illinois, 1985, p. 59)

    After arriving in Giverny, Frieseke lived in Theodore Robinson's former house, next door to Monet. The intricate and extravagant garden of the French Impressionist painter had a significant impact on Frieseke while his own house also had a "beautiful old garden, running riot with flowers vines and trees." (W.H. Gerdts, Monet's Giverny: An Impressionist Colony, New York, 1993, p. 172) Frieseke's work in Giverny often incorporated his garden whether it could be seen through a window of an interior or the backdrop for a model. "Frieseke's garden paintings reflect the simple, though hardly rustic, everyday life of relaxed enjoyment of sunshine and flowers and reading. Summertime leisure dress was the norm; for the models perhaps a kimono." (D. Sellin, "Frieseke in Le Pouldu and Giverny: The Black Gang and the Giverny Group" in Frederick Carl Frieseke: The Evolution of an American Impressionist, p. 88)

    In Giverny Landscape, Frieseke decides to eschew any figure and concentrates on the lush countryside. Through deft handling of steady yet broken brushstrokes of bright pinks, greens, yellows, reds and blues, the composition becomes a brilliant visual display of color and light. This sophisticated handling of paint combined with a jewel-like palette emphasizes Frieseke's atmospheric effect and warmth of a sun-filled day. Frieseke bathes the work with intense sunlight that does not diffuse the scene, but imbues the lush foliage with form and texture. The artist noted, "My one idea is to reproduce flowers in sunlight. I do not suggest detail by form, [but use] strokes of color in oil to produce the effect of vibration, completing as I go...If you are looking at a mass of flowers in the sunlight out of doors you see a sparkle of spots of different colors--then paint them that way...Often one obtains accidental notes out of doors which really construct a picture...I usually make my first notes and impressions with dashes of tempera, then I paint over this with small strokes as I have to keep it as pure as possible or the effects of brilliancy will be lost." (C.T. MacChesney, "Frieseke Tells Some of the Secrets of His Art," New York Times, June 7, 1914 as quoted in Frederick Carl Frieseke: The Evolution of an American Impressionist, p. 88)

    Giverny Landscape is characteristic of Frieseke's balanced and symmetrical compositions. The bands of color provide an opportunity for the artist to add pattern to the composition. Dr. William H. Gerdts has noted that "it was Frieseke who introduced into the repertory of Giverny painting the concern for rich, decorative patterns, related to the art of Edouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard, and the other Nabi painters. There are patterns of furniture, patterns of parasols, patterns of fabric and wall coverings, patterns of light and shade, and patterns of flowers, all played off one another in bright sunshine...." (Monet's Giverny: An Impressionist Colony, p. 172) In Giverny Landscape, as in other works from this period, the artist's use of sunlight, the direction and texture of his brushstrokes and contrasts of light and shadow create a patterned harmony reminiscent of the Post-Impressionists.

    In Giverny Landscape, the highly developed, patterned surface, serves as a superlative example of Frieseke's landscapes from this period and conveys the full vision of the artist's lively Impressionist style. The tranquility and serenity of this landscape is poignantly recorded, and he successfully creates an idyllic image that embraces the Giverny countryside in its most beautiful and picturesque form.

    This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Frieseke's work being compiled by Nick Kilmer, the artist's grandson, and sponsored by Hollis Taggart Galleries, New York.

    Provenance

    The artist.
    Mr. George Biddle, Croton-on-Hudson, New York, acquired from the above.
    Gift to the present owner from the above, 1960.


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property of the Corcoran Gallery of Art sold to benefit the Acquisitions Fund*


    Literature

    D.W. Phillips, A Catalogue of the Collection of American Paintings in The Corcoran Gallery of Art, vol. 2, Washington, D.C., 1973, p. 92.
    American Impressionism Engagement Calendar, Pomegranate Publications, 1987.
    Giverny: A Book of Days, calendar, Pomegranate Publications, October 1989.
    R. Gomes, Impressions of Giverny: A Painter's Paradise 1883-1914, Petaluma, California, 1995, n.p., pl. 57, illustrated.


    Exhibited

    The White House, Washington, D.C., March 1977, on loan.
    Grand Rapids, Michigan, Saginaw Art Museum, September 1, 1983-February 1, 1984.