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FrederickCarl Frieseke


Frederick Carl Frieseke was an American Impressionist painter who spent most of his life as an expatriate in France. An influential member of the Giverny art colony, his paintings often concentrated on various effects of dappled sunlight. He is especially known for painting female subjects, both indoors and out.
In 1858, Frederick Carl Frieseke's grandparents, Frederick Frieseke and his wife, emigrated from Pritzerbe (near Brandenburg, Germany) with their sons, including Herman Carl. They settled in the small central Michigan town of Owosso. Herman served in the Union Army then returned to Owosso, where he established a brick manufacturing business. He married Eva Graham and in 1871 their daughter Edith was born. Their son, Frederick Carl, was born in Owosso in 1874. Eva died in 1880 when Frederick was six years old, and in about 1881 the family moved to Florida. Herman started another brick manufacturing business in Jacksonville. The four years in Florida left an enduring impression on young Frederick; years later, when he contemplated a return to the United States from Europe, he concentrated on Florida.
Frederick's aunt recounted how, unlike most boys, he was interested in the arts more than in sports. His grandmother, Valetta Gould Graham, enjoyed painting, and encouraged Frederick in his artistic pursuits. An 1893 visit to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago also stimulated his desire to become an artist.
In 1893, Frieseke graduated from Owosso High School, then began his artistic training at the Art Institute of Chicago, studying with Frederick Warren Freer and John Vanderpoel. After moving to New York in 1895, he resumed his art education at the Art Students League in 1897. He worked as an illustrator, selling cartoons he had drawn to The New York Times, Puck, and Truth. He claimed that he might have curtailed his art education if he had been more successful in that endeavor. The following year, he moved to France, where he would remain, except for short visits to the United States and elsewhere, as an expatriate for the rest of his life. He did continue his education, enrolling at the Académie Julian in Paris, studying under Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant and Jean-Paul Laurens, and receiving criticism from Auguste-Joseph Delecluse. His studies also included some time at Académie Carmen under James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Frieseke visited Holland, including the Katwijk and Laren artist colonies, in the summer of 1898. During this time he sketched and painted in watercolors, and he initially planned to make that his specialty, but he was encouraged by Académie Carmen instructor Frederick William MacMonnies to work in oils.
Frieseke discounted his formal art education, referring to himself as self-taught; he felt that he had learned more from his independent study of artists' work than he had from his academic studies.
Starting in 1899, just over a year since his arrival in Paris, Frieseke exhibited at the Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts.
Whistler's influence is evident in Frieseke's early mature paintings, with close tonalities. By his post-1900 work, his palette had evolved toward that of the Impressionists, becoming light and colorful; however, he still retained the strong linear customs of art back in the United States.
In the summer of 1905, he spent at least a month in the Giverny art colony. In October of that year he married Sarah Anne O'Bryan (known as Sadie), whom he had met seven years earlier. Frieseke and his wife (and later, their daughter) spent every summer from 1906 to 1919 in Giverny. He kept a Paris apartment and studio throughout his life, and the Friesekes spent the winters in Paris. Their Giverny house, previously the residence of Theodore Robinson, was next door to Claude Monet's. Despite the proximity, Frieseke did not become close friends with Monet, nor was Monet an artistic influence. He said in an interview, "No artist in school has influenced me except, perhaps, Renoir." Indeed, Frieseke's paintings of sensually rounded figures often bear a resemblance to those of Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
The Friesekes' Giverny home and the garden they created there were often featured in his paintings, and his wife would frequently pose for him. He also kept another studio nearby on the Epte river. Many of his outdoor nudes were painted there.
After spending some time in Giverny, his unique style quickly emerged, and he would be quite influential with most of the other members of the colony. Although well known as an Impressionist, some of his work, with its "intense, almost arbitrary colors", demonstrates the Post-Impressionist influence of artists Paul Gauguin and Pierre Bonnard. The term "Decorative Impressionism" was coined by an art writer to refer to Frieseke's style. It combined the decorative style of Les Nabis, expressively using color and pattern, with classic Impressionist interests in atmosphere and sunlight.


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