Frederick Carl Frieseke


Frederick Frieseke was born in Owosso Michigan in 1874. He studied art at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1893 and then at the Art Students League in New York City in 1897. He moved to Paris in 1898 and studied at the Acadamie Julian and then for a short period at the Acadamie Carmen with James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
Frieseke's early work, consisting of images of women in interior settings, with their fairly close tonalities, reflects Whistler's influence on him. However, once he and his wife moved to the art colony in Giverny in 1906, where Claude Monet resided, Frieseke came into his own aesthetic. In Giverny, they rented a house and cultivated a colorful garden that became the backdrop to many of Frieseke's paintings. During his time in Giverny, Frieseke mostly painted images of women, posed in either domestic settings or sun-filled outdoor settings. However his main focus in all of his paintings was on the sunlight. He   said ''It is sunshine, flowers in sunshine, girls in sunshine, the nude in sunshine, which I have been principally interested for eight years.''

Unlike the artists that preceded him, Frieseke's impressionism was an unreal construct; his sunlight and color were entirely synthetic. The parasol became a frequent motif in Frieseke's work, both protecting his female models and further emphasizing their position as articles of beauty and the recipient of the viewer's gaze. Like many Impressionists, Frieseke also frequently positioned his female figure on a threshold between the interior and the outdoors, between the shadows and the sun. After World War I, Frieseke and his family moved to Normandy because he felt France offered him more freedom of expression than the US. Frieseke himself said ''I stay here because there are not the Puritanical restrictions which prevail in America I can paint a nude in my garden and not be run out of town.'' Ironically it is Frieseke's nudes, which were never popular with the American Public, that are considered to be his best work. Despite his work winning many awards and being acquired by a variety of museums, after World War I there was a decline in Frieseke's popularity. Critics saw his work as outmoded and overly conservative. It was during this same time that the mood of Frieseke's paintings became more contemplative, his colors muted and somber, and his composition more static. His style was beginning to make the shift from French impressionism to Realism.

Frederick Frieseke's earliest mural work was for his patron, Rodman Wanamaker. Frieseke painted mural decorations that were installed in Wanamaer's New York department store in 1904 and 1907 and for the Rodman Wanamaker Hotel in 1905, the Shelburne Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1906 and the Amphitheater of Music in New York in 1908. Art historians credit Wanamaker's constant commissions as being the sole reason Frieseke was able to devote himself to painting. Afternoon at the Beach is one of Frieseke's murals commissioned by Wanamaker for the Hotel Shelburne. The mural, designed as a single composition, but completed in segments, depicts a beach scene with figures, principally elegant young ladies, a few children, an occasional male and even a donkey and a few horses appear.Unfortunately, the origins and inspiration for the commission are not known. It is clear that the murals were studio paintings, perhaps painted from sketches observed in nature, but how much was observed and how much invented? There is no record of where the sketches may have been made, nor their source.

Sarah Anne O'Bryan, known as Sadie, who was Frieseke's wife, was a model for many of the figures, elegant and almost six feet tall, she was intelligent, dramatically gregarious and variously talented. The poise and assurance of the figures were undoubtedly inspired by Sadie. Frieseke must also have taken comfort and inspiration from Joaqin Sorolla whose beach paintings at the annual Salons of the Société des Artistes Français depicted forced, horizontal compositions, and like Frieseke's Shelburne murals, depend on repeated compositional elements and large figures occupying the foreground to accentuate the depth of the horizon. Where Sorolla used sails of ships to crowd the upper edge of his canvas, Frieseke employs gaily striped tents and umbrellas.

The murals were installed in the Hotel Shelburne under Frieseke's supervision in February 1906.

October - November 2016
Heather James Fine Art
May 6-9, 2016
New York City
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