Monday, April 9, 2012

Frank Duveneck, Student in Munich . Pt. 3

Frank Duveneck and Henry F. Farney in
Duveneck's Studio, 1874
Part Three of Norbert Herrmann's Book, Frank Duveneck

"It is interesting to linger over the condition of the art world of Munich
at the time young Duveneck stepped into it. It was a period of transitions. Within a generation the sound draughtsmanship, painstakingly built up on German soil by schooling received in France, had been followed by a wave of enthusiasm for color and now again had received a fresh impetus from Paris. At that time in the French capital, Delacroix and Ingres, the arch-romanticist and arch-classicist, still held their own. Besides these there were masters such as those glorifying the Napoleonic legend, Horace Vernet and Meissonier; the discoverers of the Orient for art, Decamps, Marilhat, Fromentin ; the genre painters of all kinds ; together with the elegant portrayers of feminine beauty, Cabanel, Baudry; the serious stylists, like Chasseriau, Flandrin, and Chenavard, and the excellent landscape painters. And finally there were the revolutionary realists with Courbet at their head. In a place apart stood Corot and Millet, whose art though closely associated with the Barbizon School is yet greater.

Munich, Germany

Something of all these was reflected in Munich in the sixties, and what is for us most interesting is the fact that two men there at least were following a course parallel to that of Courbet. These men were Wilhelm Leibl, whose influence in Munich was very strong even then, and Wilhelm von Dietz, the young instructor into whose hands Duveneck fell. Their art, resisting the artificialities of the older painters, Piloty and Makart, had been inspired by an intense study of nature and of the Dutch masters in the old Pinakothek, and had, only the year before Duveneck’s coming, received a fresh impulse through a great exhibition of French art in which Courbet was represented by a roomful of paintings. Nature, pure and simple, was what interested them, “Un coin de la nature vu a travers un temperament [A corner of nature seen through a temperament],” was the watchword coined for them by Emile Zola, the spokesman of the new movement.

Wilhelm Liebl, Three Women in Church 1882
It was among such varied influences that Duveneck had placed himself and, as was inevitable with his temperament, it was with the naturalists that he instantly aligned himself. Theirs was the spirit in which Duveneck approached his work.

Given immediately the close contact with a mood and method so absolutely suited to him, and remembering also the technical skill which he had already gained, especially through his free handling of paint in the work of church decoration in America, we can more easily understand the rapid progress of this newcomer in the stimulating art world of Munich, this blond, vigorous, and single-hearted young giant with the “ eye like a hawk,” fresh from a new world and conscious of his own power.

During his first year in Munich, Duveneck took most of the prizes of the Academy, from antique drawing to composition, a progress which was looked upon as nothing short of phenomenal. The admirable study of a Circassian in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts belongs to that year. At that time competitive compositions were made, the prize-winners were granted the use of a studio, the expenses for models to complete the prize competition usually being paid in addition. Duveneck won this prize in 1872.

The Whistling Boy, 1872

After establishing himself in the newly won studio he did not, and indeed soon proved that he did not have to, return to Dietz’s class, for to this time belongs that series of canvases of which we need recall only one, the Whistling Boy. In this picture are fully evident the qualities which startled and quickly attracted the other painters and students to him. Foremost among these is the expressive use of the paint itself, an astonishing virtuosity of brushwork closely related to Franz Hals, in which the daring and yet perfectly controlled hand defines planes, textures, and color with an
unhesitating brush loaded with paint. Even to the amateur this method makes an appeal, its chief merit being liveliness and force with rich, vibrant color.

Woman with Forget-Me-Nots (detail), 1876

Later, in the portrait of the Woman with Forget-Me-Nots, which is dated 1876, we feel the distinct ripening in pictorial insight. The fact that Duveneck at that time used to take his pictures to the Pinakothek and set them beside the old masters, the Dutch and Flemish being his favorite ones, makes us understand that as the Whistling Boy was Duveneck pure and simple, the Woman with Forget-Me-Nots is a development, through an inspiration that comes straight from the Netherlands, the hands being very suggestive of Rubens. Duveneck used a restricted palette in those days, composed chiefly of plain earth colors. A student who once asked some one who knew Duveneck in Munich, what kind of brushes and colors the latter then used, received the answer: “ Oh, generally somebody else’s.”

St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington, Kentucky is one location with some of Frank Duveneck's murals. This is an interactive, 360 degree site and well worth your time. Look in the Prayer Nave for some of his work: