Executed at the height of his career, Garden Pool, exemplifies Frederick Carl Frieseke's most beautiful works. Frieseke's garden in Giverny, the setting for a number of his finest pictures, is depicted with dazzling color and vitality. The vibrant colors and patterns of Garden Pool makes this a masterpiece of Frieseke's oeuvre.
In the summer of 1906, Frieseke settled in Giverny where the landscape, sunshine and freedom to paint as he wanted inspired him to remain 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 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 the as 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." (Frederick Carl Frieseke: The Evolution of an American Impressionist, p. 88)
In Garden Pool, a woman is perched on the edge of a reflecting pool as she is enveloped in variegated flowers and verdant foliage. As in Frieseke's best works, the artist has used the garden of his house as a setting for his beautiful model wearing a flowered kimono. Conveying a romantic parallel between the woman and flowers, he blends her into the background essentially placing a "flower" within the flowers. Frieseke 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)
Frieseke's high-keyed palette and the thick impasto of his short brushstrokes are masterfully executed in this work. Through deft handling of steady yet broken brushstrokes, Garden Pool 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. In Garden Pool Frieseke blends rich greens, reds and blues with pastel pinks, pale blues and light greens set off by dashes of white. Bathing the work with intense sunlight, Frieseke does not diffuse the scene but imbues the lush garden with form and texture.
Garden Pool is an example of Frieseke's balanced and symmetrical compositions, emphasized by the central pool, reflecting the model and surrounding flowers. The flowers throughout the garden and on the house as well as on the woman's robe 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 Garden Pool 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.
All of Frieseke's artistic devices come together in this work to form a highly successful, complete, composed 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) Garden Pool is a masterful example of Frieseke's garden paintings and conveys the full vision of the artist's lively Impressionist style. The vitality of the garden and the quiet moment of the model is poignantly recorded as he successfully creates an idyllic image that embraces the scene in its most beautiful and picturesque form.
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.