A classic work in the Impressionist manner, Le Thé au Jardin is a wonderful example of Frederick Carl Frieseke's early style. His body of work executed between 1904 and 1919 represent the artist's ambitious and important forays into Impressionism. Living and working in Giverny, he considered himself a true impressionist, using nature as his inspiration and rejecting all accepted rules of painting. As the first work that Frieseke painted out of doors, en plein air, Le Thé au Jardin marks the most significant turning point in the artisit's career.
Frieseke began to prefer the outdoors, painting interior scenes only when the weather was inclement. Monet's intricate and extravagent garden had a significant impact on Frieseke, and his house also had "a beautiful old garden, running riot with flowers." (W.H. Gerdts, Monet's Giverny: An Impressionist Colony, New York, 1993, p. 172) Frieseke's blending of an American Impressionist style with typically French subjects resulted in his prominence at home and abroad; indeed, the March 1932 issue of Art Digest called him "the most internationally renowned American artist."
The gardens and landscapes of France were significant not only for Frieseke but also for his wife, Sadie, who was a gardener and frequent model for the artist. Throughout his career, Frieseke painted women and, as Dr. Bruce Chambers points out, his subjects were generally the more mature European women of Cassatt, Degas and Renoir. He frequently chose to paint women who appeared self-absorbed, whether alone or in company. In the present work, the artist captures an afternoon gathering in the intimate outdoor setting of the Frieseke's private garden enclave. He experiments with contrasting patterns, skillfully incorporating into his canvas the various designs, colors and textures of silver, china, wooden chair backs, flowing drapery, and dense green foliage.
Ben L. Summerford describes the artist's early works: "When we look at the early period of Frieseke's work, from the end of the 19th century to the end of the first decade of the 20th, we see an immensely confident and thoroughly trained painter whose work, even at that point, seemed equal to any expectations. He has every reason to be confident. The work of that period is ambitious in the best sense of the word, for it is ambitious particularly and especially in its quality of observation and in the incisiveness of its expression...There is a thrilling quality to the early paintings. They have the vitality of youth, the feeling that anything is possible, whether the subject is a broadly brushed small landscape of a large sensuous nude. In these paintings Frieseke pays his respects to the art of the past while at the same time acknowledging the discipline of his schooling and an awareness of his immediate predecessory Corot or Monet, Degas or Whistler. In may ways they are among his finest and freest conceptions, direct, forceful, condifent and economical." (B.L. Summerford, A Retrospective Exhibition of the Work of F.C. Frieseke, San Francisco, California, 1982, p. 17)
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.