Executed circa 1910.
From 1904 to 1919, Frederick Frieseke lived and worked in Giverny and considered himself a "true Impressionist", using nature as his inspiration and rejecting "all accepted rules of painting." Frieseke preferred the outdoors, painting interior scenes only when the weather was inclement. It was during this period that his treatment of light and color became signature characteristics of his work. In an interview with the painter and writer Clara T. MacChesney published on June 7, 1914, the artist discussed his infatuation with sunlight: "No, it is sunshine, flowers in sunshine; girls in sunshine; the nude in sunshine, which I have been principally interested in for eight years, and if I could only reproduce it exactly as I see it I would be satisfied."
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) He consciously chose one side of the "deep schism developing in the art world between the academic status quo and the experimental art that was shocking the world." (A Retrospective Exhibition, p. 15) One might observe, however, that despite these assertions of naturalism, the artist embraced the more radical Pointillism of Seurat and the expressive patterning of artists such as Vuillard, Bonnard and Klimt. In The Garden Path as in 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.
Throughout his career, Frieseke's subjects were generally the more mature European women of Cassatt, Degas and Renoir. Indeed, the artist's depictions of women in outdoor settings are among the finest expressions of American Impressionism. 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" (Frederick Frieseke, 1874-1939, Savannah, Georgia, 1974, p. 12)
According to Nicholas Kilmer, the model used in The Garden Path might be the artist's niece, Aileen O'Brien, who stayed with the Friesekes in Paris and Giverny during the period in which this painting was executed. She is dressed in one of the collection of nineteenth century costumes which the Friesekes amassed from the Paris flea markets, for use in his compositions.
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.