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

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