One of the main artists featured in the upcoming exhibition An American Odyssey: The Warner Collection of American Art is Frederick Carl Frieseke. Born in Michigan, he studied at The Art Institute of Chicago beginning in 1893. Afterwards he went to the Art Students League in New York City in 1897, until he finally traveled to Paris in 1898. Abroad, he developed and refined his style. In Paris Frieseke studied at the Académie Julien and at the Académie Carmen under James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) for a brief period. Frieseke began his professional life as an illustrator, and his earliest acclaimed works reflect Whistler’s influence, as he created images of individual women indoors painted in close tonalities. He grasped Whistler’s appreciation for “infinite gradation” of color with paint, and the flattened space and flowing line of the Art Nouveau style was also of great influence during this period of his life.
In 1906, Frieseke and his wife were drawn to the same village as the great French Impressionist Claude Monet, who settled there in 1883. In the art colony at Giverny, Frieseke quickly developed an original aesthetic that impacted other artists. He created luminous paintings of both interior and outdoor scenes, combining solidly depicted figures with his attention to overall patterning. His wife’s colorful garden was the setting for many of Frieseke’s pictures.
During the Giverny period, Frieseke’s palette was comprised of mostly greens, violets, and blues, along with golds, oranges, and whites that reflected the brilliant summer light. He focused on monumental images of women, posed in domestic interiors or sun-filled outdoor settings, such as in the garden.
Frieseke’s primary concern was the interpretation of sunlight. Friseke’s The Green Parasol reflects the key qualities of his work . The work portrays his loose strokes of pastel colors such as pink and green and his emphasis on pattern and decoration contrasting with the garden’s blooms. His art has been identified as “Decorative Impressionism”; however, the two-dimensional effects may put his work with the Post-Impressionists.
Frieseke recognized the influence of the art of Pierre Auguste Renoir on his work, especially his rounded figural types. The parasol is a common motif in his art, seen in The Green Parasol, and protects the female models, emphasizing their place as an article of beauty to be looked at. It also speaks to the upper class and the harmonious comfort in which they lived.
In 1920, Frieseke and his wife left Giverny and bought a summer house in Normandy where he became interested in a darker palette and the use of chiaroscuro. His subjects continued to be females, such as his daughter, placed in an interior setting. He also developed a greater sense of psychological awareness in his work. Frieseke’s aesthetic influenced a generation of Americans in Giverny and secured him international fame.
What do you think of Frieseke’s artwork? How does it compare to Renoir’s? Monet’s? Who is your favorite Impressionist? How do these works compare and contrast with the works recently featured in the WomenArtists exhibition?
Make sure to see this and other paintings by Frieseke in the exhbition An American Odyssey, on view from April 1-July 3, 2011.