Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939)
Property of H.F. ‘Gerry’ Lenfest
Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939)

Cherry Blossoms

Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939)
Cherry Blossoms
signed 'F.C. Frieseke.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
32 x 25 ½ in. (81.3 x 64.8 cm.)
Painted by 1913.
Private collection, France.
Christie's, New York, 2 December 1998, lot 11, sold by the above.
Acquired by the present owner from the above.

Lot Essay

This painting will be included in the Frederick C. Frieseke Catalogue Raisonné being compiled by Nicholas Kilmer, the artist's grandson, with the support of the Hollis Taggart Galleries, New York.

Frederick Carl Frieseke's Cherry Blossoms is a superb example of the artist's mature Impressionist style. In Cherry Blossoms, Frieseke's garden in Giverny, France, is depicted with dazzling color and vitality as a female figure dappled in sunlight leisurely enjoys the outdoor space. Executed by 1913, during a period of incredibly creative output, the present work was painted when Frieseke had achieved the comfort of a solid reputation among critics and could relish in the artistic freedom and inspiration he found in his Giverny garden.

In the summer of 1906, Frieseke settled in Giverny, 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. 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, and Frieseke's 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) His work in Giverny often incorporated his garden either as seen through the window of an interior or as the backdrop for a model.

Although he lived in Giverny for nearly two decades, Frieseke never considered himself a French Impressionist. He declared, “I am not an expatriate. I often return to the states, and I look forward to finally locating there. I stay on here because I am more free to and there are not the Puritanical restrictions which prevail in America...I can paint a nude in my own garden or down by the fish pond and not be run out of town.” (as quoted in M. Domit, Frederick Frieseke, 1874-1939, Savannah, Georgia, 1974, p. 10) Indeed, the artist’s works featuring nude figures, including Cherry Blossoms, are among the finest expressions of American Impressionism. The woman in the present work has piled her parasol and clothing on the ground as she perhaps prepares to, or as just come out from, a dip into the pond behind her. Moussa M. Domit notes, “Frieseke's real and most consistent interest from the beginning seems to have been in painting the nude or draped figure, especially ‘in sunshine’ or in dappled shade of trees, or under an umbrella but also in the delicate light of indoors. Clearly his reputation in Europe was mainly as a painter of nudes. German and Italian, as well as French, critical interest centered on this aspect of his work, and writers were unanimous in praising his skills.” (Frederick Frieseke, 1874-1939, p. 12)

Frieseke’s high-keyed palette and thick impasto are masterfully executed in the present work. Through deft handling of short, broken brushstrokes, Cherry Blossoms becomes a brilliant visual display of color and light. This sophisticated handling of paint combined with a jewel-like palette emphasizes Frieseke's effect of a sun-filled day and the contrasting shadows. In Cherry Blossoms, Frieseke mixes deep shades with light pastels of greens, blues and yellows, which are set off by dashes of white and red. Frieseke's brushwork imbues the lush garden with form and texture. 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 Édouard 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 Cherry Blossoms as in his other works from this period, the artist's dappled 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.

Frieseke's Impressionist methods come together in Cherry Blossoms to form a highly successful, complete and balanced composition. In the present work, one can quickly identify Frieseke's adherence to the academic “principles of reduction of visual detail for the purpose of clarifying and unifying the expressive whole.” (B.L. Summerford, A Retrospective Exhibition, San Francisco, California, 1982, p. 17) Cherry Blossoms conveys the full vision of the artist’s lively Impressionist style; the vitality of the garden and the quiet moment of the model are poignantly recorded as he successfully creates an idyllic image that embraces the scene in its most beautiful and picturesque form.

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