Saturday, March 24, 2012

Frank Duveneck by Norbert Herrmann . Pt. 2

Second in a Series: Duveneck's Entry Into the World of Art

"Before this audience, in 1875, came Frank Duveneck with his little one-man show of five canvases, a young fellow of twenty-seven  years with but a three years’ schooling in  Munich behind him. The canvases he showed  were “ The Woman with a Fan,” “ The Old  Schoolmaster,” “ Portrait of William Adams,”  “Portrait of Professor Loefftz,” and the “ Whistling Boy.” Here at last was a personality that spoke a definite, a beautifully and  powerfully definite language. Duveneck’s exhibition proved an immediate success. The pictures were acclaimed by Hunt and many others and by the whole press. 
"The Woman with a Fan" 1873

"Whistling Boy" 1872

The opening of a new era in American art was proclaimed. In 1877, the National Academy Exhibition in New York, including a group of canvases by the American painters from the Munich School, became a fresh landmark, and with the founding in the following year of “ The Society of American Artists “ and their subsequent exhibition at the Kurtz Gallery in New York in 1878, the new era in American Art was fairly launched. The younger men among the American painters had been brought into contact with a vital influence from outside and had been taught to respect their own reaction to it. As we have seen, this first impulse came by way of Munich; later Paris became the art school of the world. All this now is too well known to be dwelt upon.

"Portrait of William Adams" 1874

In speaking of Duveneck I would emphasize the powerful effect of his own work at the outset of our era. What he accomplished after that, while not less surely, was more quietly done. His class in Florence, then known as
the “Duveneck Boys,” his Italian paintings, his series of Venetian and Florentine etchings, his work as a sculptor, decorator, and as adviser has been of inestimable value, the story of his life affording a natural bridge by which to pass from our early period to the present day.

"Portrait of Professor Ludwig Loefftz" 1873

Frank Duveneck was born in 1848 in Covington, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Among his early recollections are a variety of interesting incidents of the Civil War. Naturally, living on the border-line of North and South, he felt the influence of the conflict through contact with the sick and wounded; also with negro refugees, half starved, helpless, and often not too hospitably received. At this time the Benedictine Friars were making altars for Catholic churches in Covington, and they employed Duveneck, still a mere boy, in his first artistic work. He painted, modeled, carved, decorated, finding a great deal of pleasure in the variety of his work.

His ability soon attracted the attention of a local painter named Schmidt, and later, at the age of eighteen, of a church decorator of German birth and training named Lamprecht, who coming just then to Cincinnati accepted him as an assistant. The varied work which followed proved of importance in Duveneck’s development. He learned his craft in the next few years, the rough craft of painting on large surfaces. He decorated churches in many different places, even as far away as Canada.

Realizing more and more his artistic ambition and being strongly advised by his fellow decorators to study abroad, he managed to get to Munich, which had at this time taken the place of Diisseldorf as the leading art school in Germany, and entered the Royal Academy. This was in 1870. After working for three months in the Antique Class, Duveneck was admitted, without any of the usual preparatory life drawings, to the painting class of Wilhelm Dietz, one of the radicals among the faculty who had become a professor at the Academy the same year that Duveneck entered. Among his classmates at this time were two who afterwards became famous; one of them being Ludwig Loefftz, later a professor and after that Director of the Munich Academy; and the other, Wilhelm Triibner, who ranks among the strongest modern German painters."

Notes on the Above Paintings
Woman with a Fan, 1873
"Like the romance of a long-forgotten day this lady emerges from 
the dark with her fan, her graceful feathery hat, her quaint ruche, silk 
dress, and black shawl. Asked once in reference to the superb paint- 
ing of her eyes, the depth of them, Duveneck said: " Yes, in those 
days I had eyes like a hawk and yet I painted two days on that one eye 
in the light." 
Whistling Boy, 1872
"The young Duveneck's complete realization of technique, clearness 
of vision, and powerful aim for what is vital in portraiture. Every- 
thing here fairly palpitates with life."
Portrait of William Adams, 1874 
"Note the stately placing of the figure on the canvas, the directness 
of expression with the brush, the subtle values in solid painting."  
Portrait of Professor Ludwig Loefftz, 1873 
"One of the artist's most beautiful works, a portrait all painters love 
for its dignity and completeness."

* Published by Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, copyright 1918

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Frank Duveneck by Norbert Herrmann . Pt. 1

The First in a Series: An Introduction

Portrait of Frank Duveneck by Joseph DeCamp
[Joseph DeCamp’s portrait of Duveneck strongly indicates his physical and mental make-up and harmonizes very well with Mrs. Pennell’s description (page 85). The expression of his eyes and hands in the canvas, suggesting a quietude that to the outsider might mean almost anything, yet to those that know him conveys the feeling of latent power and re- minds one that these blue eyes of his are used to look at things firmly  and to take from them a clear-cut summary of what is there. The portrait is a double tribute of DeCamp to his teacher. It was a work of love, time having been taken from commissions to complete it for a gift  to Cincinnati, where DeCamp was born and received his early art training. It also carries the sign of the latter’s training under Duveneck. A fine piece of characterization ; the person summed it up who said, “ Cut  the hand on the left out and show it to anybody that knows Duveneck  and he will tell you whose hand it is.”]
Excerpts from Norbert Herrmann's book, Frank Duveneck:

"After all’s said, Frank Duveneck is the “greatest talent of the brush of this generation.”  These are the words which John Singer Sargent spoke at a dinner given in London in the  early nineties, in a discussion of the merits of such eminent men as Carolus Duran and others. This judgment, deliberately spoken by a man whom artists and laymen alike have come to regard as the most technically brilliant of painters, would not now, any more than it did then, arouse contradiction in a company of artists. Yet to the general public it would come with a shock of surprise. This is in part because Duveneck’s work is not accessible to the general public. Another reason lies in the fact that the greatness of Duveneck’s art is best understood by the student of painting. His style, simple and direct,  is “sans phrase,” without technical tricks for effect, without persuasive story subjects, without even so much self-consciousness as is implied in the word “sentiment.” Of literary association there is none, of doctrine or dogma there is none.

The Rialto, Venice. Etching
 Memorial to Elizabeth Boott Duveneck
This is a copy of the original and is at the Met 

The world of this painter is not history, not imagination, not psychological analysis, not ethics; those fields which our public loves to explore. His compelling interest is in the normal aspect of man and nature, the subjects he chooses are everyday types ; he conceives them in an unpretentious spirit, but transmits them as endowed with quiet power. There is in his work a certain finality of grasp with a dignity, a calm, which to the connoisseur is akin to the serenity of the Greek, while to the multitude it may appear actually commonplace.

That a man of this type should later have been almost lost sight of, except by his intimate circle of artist friends, is not altogether surprising in this country and at a time like the present [this was written in 1918], when change swiftly follows change and is greeted with a clamor that distracts attention from earlier achievement.

The Old Professor, 1871

We owe it to the Duveneck Gallery at the Panama Pacific International Exposition that the full power of this personality has been once more thrown into full relief; and the action of the jury in awarding him a special medal, the highest in its power to bestow, is a timely reminder of the truly classic standard of his work and of its importance in the development of our national school.

To appreciate the effect of his painting, when it was first exhibited over forty years ago, we must remember the lack of national character in the American art of that day. The country was flooded with foreign paintings which inspired our painters to either the sentimental story picture of Dusseldorf lineage, or the dry reflection of other lifeless works.

Only here and there the flicker of independent thought appeared.
  • Inness, the father of the naturalistic movement in American landscape, who had just returned from Italy, was beginning to feel his way towards the splendor of his later work. 
  • Homer Martin was in more or less an experimental stage, 
  • and so was Alexander H. Wyant. 
  • John La Farge’s poetic genius was getting ready to express itself with full mastery for the first time in his mural decoration in Trinity Church, Boston (1876), 
  • and George Fuller’s noble art was yet hidden from the public, his intimate friends alone knowing that he painted in the intervals of his farm work at Deerfield, Massachusetts. 
  • William Morris Hunt was actually the only widely recognized artistic personage at the time. He had opened a studio in Boston in 1862. It proved successful, and his lectures on art, notably the art of his great inspiration Millet, also of Delacroix and Daumier, prepared in that city the most open-minded audience which existed in the country."

* Published by Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, copyright 1918