Thursday, October 1, 2009

Frank Duveneck

images from, Americas largest online museum and a great resource.

I want to mention the passing of another New England artist. Martin Ahearn. I never knew him very well but he was a fine watercolorist and lived to the advanced age of 91. There are now almost none of the artists of that generation still living.

I am stymied due to rain on the great Perley Oak project so I am working in the studio on another painting. I will post it when it is finished if it is any good. I believe I will return to the subject of the American painters, at least those who were landscape painters or relate in some important way to that tradition. I am going at this in a roughly chronological fashion, although I am not a scholar, merely an artist enthusiast.

Frank Duveneck is not exactly a name, and you may not know of him. But Duveneck 1848-1919 was a hinge upon which the painting of America turned. Duveneck was from Covington, Kentucky, he is usually associated with nearby Cincinnati though as he taught in later life.

A few years after the civil war, he went to Germany to study painting. The German training received by American painters in Munich is less remembered than that of the young artists who went to Paris at that time. The Munich school taught a darker more painterly style and produced a group of fine young American painters including William Merrit Chase, about whom we shall hear more soon.

Here from the Archives of American Art , is a picture of the students of Diez in Munich, Duveneck is in the front row with the cane. Growing up in a German enclave in Covington he no doubt spoke German well and that made Munich a logical place for him to study.

A successful show in Boston made him an important painter at the age of 27. He returned to and established an atelier in Munich and began to draw American students. They were referred to as "Duveneck's boys" His students included, John Twachtman, Kenyon Cox, Joseph Decamps an important Boston school painter, Fredrick Blum, and Theodore Wendell. His students broad style of expressive painting brought a new kind of painting to America, that would end the Hudson Rivers schools era and usher in an era of tonalist, moody and dramatic landscapes.

Look at the handling in the painting above. This is an exciting kind of painting with slashing brushwork and glowing lights. The lines writhe about almost like a Rubens. It is very different from the paintings of the Hudson River school before. It is an expressive painterly "take" on a small and ordinary corner of nature, rather than a broad "OH MY GOSH" epic view of some grand scene. In a way, it is just exactly the opposite of Hudson River school paintings enameled surfaces and topographical interest in scenic views. The tonalist and then impressionist revolutions of the next generation of American painters rise partly from this mans influence. The Ashcan School later imitated his dark, rich tonality and bold expressive handling.

Upon the early death of his young and beautiful wife Duveneck returns to his home in Covington Kentucky and lives a life of near obscurity, teaching in Cincinnati after 1889 and summering on Rocky Neck in Gloucester, Massachusetts in what was the early period of its art colony.

One of these days I must do a post on the artists produced by Cincinnati. There have been many.


Philip Koch said...

The Duveneck forest interior oil is qood!

armandcabrera said...


Great post on one of my favorite painters. There is a small Duveneck in the DeYoung in San Francisco that commands your attention when you enter the room it is in. It is painted with that expressive handling you describe so well.

Richard J. Luschek II said...

Before you do that post on Cincinnati artists, I think it is in your best interests to come to our fair city and give them a serious study. Carl Samson's studio built by two students of Duveneck (Herman and Bessie Wessel) is like a little museum of Cincinnati artist and painting history of the town.
My studio down the street was home to a student of Herman Wessel.
Thanks for this post, the arts in this country owe much to him and his influence.
This city is filled with his work. Even the Covington Public Library has around 8 of his portraits hung around the book stacks.

Gregory Becker said...

I cant wait to see more on this. I love the tonalist approach and those are some great examples I get excited when I see work like that.
When I think of color in a tonalist painting I see it as pools of light that make the viewer feel priveliged. I cant get enough of it.

Unknown said...

Very cool. I wondered why some artists (like Cox) didn't look quite Parisian in their training. This guy is good, I will have to find some more of his work.

Stapleton Kearns said...

It is bold isn't it?

Stapleton Kearns said...


I have been to the DeYoung it was a great museum.

Armand is opening a show in Warrenton,Virginia at the Berkley Gallery, called Paintings of the Piedmont. The show opens Nov. 7 and runs till the 21st.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Someday I will visit you all in Cincinnati./ I did a show there about 20 years ago with John Terelac at the Miller gallery.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am not sure we can classify Duveneck as a tonalist painter. Although I don't have a better category to stick him in.

Stapleton Kearns said...

There are some nice landscapes but I was unable to find the one I wanted which is of Gloucester.

cutegift2001 said...

Is the first painting of the ruins (stairs) done by Frank Duveneck or you??