Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939) <BR>Sunspots <BR>
Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939)
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Property from The Westervelt Company, formerly The Gulf States Paper Corporation
Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939)


Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874-1939)
signed 'F.C. Frieseke.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
28¾ x 36½ in. (73 x 92.7 cm.)
Painted circa 1915.
The artist.
By descent.
[With]Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1980.
The Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, Frederick Frieseke 1874-1939, exhibition catalogue, Savannah, Georgia, 1974, p. 18, no. 12.
Fayetteville Museum of Art, The Last Expatriate: Frederick Carl Frieseke, exhibition catalogue, Fayetteville, North Carolina, 1980, n.p., no. 13.
T. Armstrong, ed., An American Odyssey: The Warner Collection of American Fine and Decorative Arts, Gulf States Paper Corporation, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, New York, 2001, pp. 140-41, illustrated.
Savannah, Georgia, The Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, and elsewhere, Frederick Frieseke 1874-1939, November 5-December 5, 1974, no. 12.
Owosso, Michigan, Shiawasse Arts Council, Frederick Frieseke, 1874-1939, July 2-22, 1976, no. 4.
Fayetteville, North Carolina, Fayetteville Museum of Art, The Last Expatriate: Frederick Carl Frieseke, 1980, no. 13.
Sylacauga, Alabama, Sylacauga Art Museum, February 24-March 24, 1982, on loan.
Jacksonville, Florida, Cummer Gallery of Art, American Favorites from the Warner Collection of Gulf States Paper Corporation and the David Warner Foundation, September 16-November 11, 1984.
Birmingham, Alabama, Birmingham Museum of Art, American Masterpieces from the Warner Collection, January 30-March 29, 1987.
South Bend, Indiana, South Bend Art Center, American Masterpieces from the Warner Collection, December 9, 1989-February 4, 1990.
Montgomery, Alabama, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Impressions of America: The Warner Collection of Gulf States Paper Corporation, June 18-July 28, 1991.
Memphis, Tennessee, The Dixon Gallery & Gardens, Impressions of America, November 15, 1992-January 24, 1993.

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Lot Essay

Frederick Frieseke's images of young women are celebrated as some of the finest achievements of American Impressionism. Sunspots is an example of these paintings as an exquisitely sensual work and a mastery of rich textures and beautiful light. In it, a woman lies on a blanket in quiescence, enveloped by lush landscape and rendered with dazzling color and vitality. Frieseke's mastery of light, color and pattern makes Sunspots a masterpiece of his oeuvre.

The origin of Frieseke's light palette and interest in the theme of women and flowers 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, the sunshine and the 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." (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)

Two dominant themes developed among the American artists in Giverny. Primarily, they chose to concentrate on landscapes while others focused on painting figures. Both schools however, used the principles of Impressionism and eschewed urban scenes of theaters and cafés, the subjects preferred by the French figurative Impressionist painters. Frieseke selected the latter, preferring "monumental images of women, single or in pairs, clothed or nude, and posed either in domestic interiors or in garden settings...The woman--whether standing, seated or reclining--is usually passive and meditative; the garden itself is a hortus conclusus, a safe haven for the purity of womanhood." (Monet's Giverny: An Impressionist Colony, p. 172) Sunspots relates directly to a series of large, full length nudes posed out of doors. The Metropolitan Museum's example of this composition (Summer, 1914) presents the same model and pose and the artist's emphasis on the effects of dappled sunlight. Other works from this series include Autumn of 1914 in the collection of Museo d'Arte Moderna di Ca'Pesaro, Venice and Venus in the Sunlight of 1913 in the Manoogian Collection.

Sunspots is a masterpiece of the type of Impressionist paintings created in Giverny in the early twentieth century. In this work, Frieseke has faithfully incorporated every hallmark of the style. Frieseke's beautiful young model lies on a pink cloth with her head thrown to the side and hand placed at her mouth as the artist places her body and cloth on a diagonally on the canvas. In contrast to the opalescent, smooth rendering of the young woman, the surrounding landscape is painted in vivid color in a tapestry of short, dense Impressionist strokes. In a manner reminiscent of Renoir, Frieseke reflects the subtle pastel colors of the surroundings onto the young woman's skin, creating a highly artificial, decorative surface while maintaining traditional figuration. Frieseke's daring use of color in Sunspots is immediately discernible. The high keyed palette of greens, purples, pinks and yellows are characteristic colors of many Giverny paintings and Frieseke used it to great effect to provide contrast for the glowing skin and russet hair of the young woman. Frieseke is able to combine strong draftsmanship, lively color and bold design to create a picture that captures both Impressionist and modern elements harmoniously.

In Sunspots, the flowers and surrounding grasses provide an opportunity for the artist to add pattern to the composition. "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 against another in bright sunshine." (Monet's Giverny: An Impressionist Colony, p. 172) In Sunspots, 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.

Dr. Gerdts noted that Frieseke's nudes, "have an element of grandeur that, for all their aesthetic modernity, relates them to the majestic nudes from the era of Titian and Velázquez. They are far more sensual than those by any of Frieseke's fellow colonists." (Monet's Giverny: An Impressionist Colony, p. 176) Ultimately, Frieseke's depictions of the female either in or outdoors, stand as masterpieces within his oeuvre. His ability to play with light and technique and imbue his models with an air of psychological independence and continues the venerable art historical tradition of female representation and positions the artist as one of the most virtuous American Impressionist painters of the female figure.

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

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