Sunday, December 8, 2013

Elizabeth Nourse: Cincinnati's Most Famous Woman Artist (Part I)

written by Mary Alice Heekin Burke*

Elizabeth Nourse graduated from the School of Design of the University of Cincinnati in 1880, went to Paris in 1887 when she was twenty-eight years old, and lived there until her death in 1938. During her career she achieved all the honors to which an expatriate artist could aspire.

Elizabeth Nourse, Self-Portrait, 1892
She was the second American woman elected a member of the Societe Nationale des Beaux Arts (hereafter the New Salon) one of two important Salons at the time. (The Salons were annual exhibitions of contemporary art held each spring in Paris, the international center of art during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They derived their popular name, Salon, from having been held in the Salon Carree at the Louvre when they were originated in the seventeenth century by the French government. After 1881 they were organized by French artists, the first of these being the
Societe Nationale des Artistes Francais (hereafter the Old Salon). Nourse showed her work in the Old Salon for two years until the New Salon was formed. The concept of the  commercial gallery was very new then so exposure at the Salon provided thousands of artists from all over the world their best opportunity to be noticed by important people—art critics, dealers, collectors—and gave them the experience of being compared with the leading contemporary artists. The exhibition was juried by famous artists and their acceptance of an art work gave it the guarantee of quality that collectors
and museum curators required to make their purchases.
Elizabeth Nourse . Head of a Girl, 1882
Nourse also won many awards in the international expositions: Chicago, Nashville, Paris, Saint Louis, and San Francisco. She was consistently invited to enter the annual juried exhibitions that were a prominent feature of the American art scene, at the Pennsylvania Academy of The Fine Arts, the Carnegie Institute, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the Corcoran Gallery.

Elizabeth Nourse . Les Volets Clos
As a final accolade the French government bought her painting, Les Volets Clos for its permanent collection of contemporary art to hang in the Musee du Luxembourg with the work of such artists as Whistler, Winslow Homer, and Sargent.

Nourse's career parallels that of other expatriate artists of the pre-World War I period, but certain aspects of it are unique. With Mary Cassatt and Cecilia Beaux, she was one of the few women painters to achieve international recognition for her work and, like them, faced certain obstacles that male artists did not encounter. She first had to prove that she was a serious professional since most women painters eventually marry or become teachers and fail to produce a significant body of work.

To acquire professional status she had to be recognized by the all male juries of the Salons and
international exhibitions and to be favorably reviewed by the art critics, who also were mostly men. As a Victorian lady she could not easily advance her career by forming friendships in these groups, as a male artist could. The social interchange of the cafe, so much a part of the artistic life of Paris in her day, was denied her.

Elizabeth Nourse . The Little Sister, 1902
To compensate for these disadvantages, she always had the total support of her family and of a large network of women friends who admired her work, publicized it, and bought it. Unlike Cassatt, Nourse did not have an independent income nor did she teach, as Beaux did. Yet from 1883 until her death, a period of fifty-five years, she earned her living as a professional artist and supported her older sister, Louise, as well. She was also unusual among both men and women expatriates in being almost entirely American trained. Except for a few months' study in New York and later in Paris at the Academie Julian, her style was formed at the School of Design in Cincinnati.

Another problem women artists share is that their work has never commanded the market as has that of male artists since it is thought that they are not serious professionals. This means that their paintings tend to be found one to a collector making them difficult to evaluate, and that they have rarely been the subject of one-person exhibitions and catalogs that would bring their work to public notice.

Next: Elizabeth's Training

* in the Queen City Heritage magazine, Winter 1931 edition

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dear Lizzie: The Life of Elizabeth Boott Duveneck, Part IV

The Duvenecks had exciting plans to spend the winter of 1888 in Paris. They were able to rent the very same apartment in which they had been married. Frank planned to meet up with some of his "Boys," Louis Ritter, Theodore Wendel and Julius Rolshoven (who was also FBD’s godfather) and paint the model in an academy, and both Frank and Lizzie would create and enter works for that year's Paris Salon.

Francis also joined up with them there after a summer in Boston. Lizzie hired a British girl to act as Frank Jr.’s nanny and they got to work.

Portrait of Elizabeth Boott Duveneck by Frank Duveneck
Cincinnati Art Museum
Lizzie completed a large watercolor of Villa Castellani for her Salon entry and posed for Frank's full-length portrait of herself in her brown wedding dress. When it was finished in mid-March, she wrote: “Frank has painted a picture of me full length with which Papa is delighted and also all those who have seen it.” Then, only a few days after the letter was penned, tragedy overwhelmed the little family completely altering the course of their lives.

March days that year were full of snow; winter had rarely seemed so severe. On the Sunday the Salon jury voted in both her watercolor and Frank’s painting of her, Lizzie came down with a chill. Soon it was pneumonia and four days later, she died - on the anniversary of her wedding day, in the very room where she had been married two years before.

In a time-honored practice at the moment of death, Louis Ritter sat by Lizzie’s bedside and and carefully and sensitively drew her portrait. This precious drawing is now in the collection of the Cincinnati Art Museum. When we saw it in person recently, it was like being taken back to that room at that time.

Post-Mortem Portrait of Elizabeth Boott Duveneck by Louis Ritter
Cincinnati Art Museum
Her sickness and death all happened so suddenly, so unexpectedly, that the shock to her father and  husband was devastating. Duveneck disappeared from the house and was gone all day and half the night. Theodore Wendel, his pupil and friend, went out about midnight to search for him and found him in a little cafe which the artists often frequented, sitting at a table in the corner completely dazed and speechless.

The next day Lizzie’s body was taken to a temporary resting place and, as she had requested, would be taken back to Florence in May to rest in that "beautiful country of flowers she so dearly loved" at the Allori Cemetery.

Allori Cemetery, Florence, Italy
Her father’s worst fears had been realized. Just as his wife had died only two or three years after her marriage to him, so Lizzie had died two years after her marriage to Frank. Just as Lizzie was 18 months old when he had been widowed, so her child, Frank Jr., was just fifteen months old, and his son-in-law was left to raise his child alone. One link to his daughter now was his son-in-law, but even moreso his grandson. It was unthinkable that he should be separated from him. And yet how could an old man and an inexperienced father properly care for this little boy?

At that point a cable arrived from Lizzie’s uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Lyman in Boston, inviting them to bring Frankie to become a member of their family. So they sadly packed up Villa Castellani and returned to America.

Frank and His Son in Happier Times

The Lymans liked Duveneck and thought it unselfish of him to part with the baby. Though his decision caused him great sadness, he believed it was the right thing to do for his child.” He visited him every Christmas and spring vacation, and journeyed to Boston to see the boy in the summers, which he spent in and around the area, with visits extending over several weeks or even months. Later they travelled together in Europe. But Frankie never saw his father’s home in Covington nor his grandmother nor other Kentucky relatives until he was a young man and his grandfather had died. He only really knew his mother’s side of the family...especially since every time Frank would visit he would speak fondly of Lizzie. He shared the stories of their life together and recounted them over and over again with pride, satisfaction and humor.

The Duveneck House in Covington, Kentucky
After Frank had left his son in the Lymans care, he returned to his family home on Greenup Street in Covington, Kentucky. He now painted in a studio transformed from his mother’s washhouse in the rear of their home - and searched for a fitting way to pay his tribute to his dear Lizzie. Little did he realize that through this tribute, she would remain his constant companion until his own death in 1919.

Frank’s idea took the form of a bronze effigy of Lizzie to place on her tomb in Florence. This was a remarkable choice since he was not a sculptor - but then Frank Duveneck was a remarkable artist. He sought out advice from prominent sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and also had the help of his Cincinnati sculptor friend Clement Barnhorn. The clay model was completed around 1889 and from that a plaster model was made - the very one that is displayed to this day at the Cincinnati Art Museum. From that the bronze was cast and set up early in 1891 on her grave.

Bronze Effigy at the Allori Cemetery, Florence
Francis Boott was so pleased with the memorial that in 1893 he commissioned a marble version, which was carved in Italy with Duveneck responsible for the finishing. Nine-year-old Frankie went with his grandfather to the museum in Boston to see the enormous heavy crate unpacked and set up on its pedestal.

Lizzie's Marble Effigy at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
After it was installed, Mr. Boott and Frankie made a pilgrimage every Sunday thereafter to look on the serene and quiet face. The old man would tell the child stories of his mother. She became a living presence to him. Throughout the next decade a number of plaster copies were made for other museums. In 1917 at sculptor Daniel Chester French’s request, the Cincinnati Museum Association approved the casting of a bronze to be made for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection.

Lizzie's Bronze and Gilt Effigy at the Met
By the time it was done and gilded as well it was 1927, eight years after Frank’s death. And it, the marble at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the original plaster at the Cincinnati Art Museum are still on display.

Was it not the perfect tribute to Lizzie?

She who loved art
was made into a work of art,
her loving face recalled in clay, plaster, bronze and marble by a man who had loved her deeply
a face upon which her beloved little boy gazed fondly as the years passed -
a face that her beloved father would remember her by -

Their own dear Lizzie...

(This series of blogs are the script for my talk, "Dear Lizzie" at the Greenacres Foundation, Oct. 19, 2013.)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dear Lizzie: The Life of Elizabeth Boott Duveneck, Part III

Elizabeth Boott, 1880 by Frank Duveneck
from Frank to Lizzie, a Christmas present, 1880
It was not long before Lizzie and Frank’s relationship as student and teacher changed, and they became romantically involved. He painted a very lovely portrait of her, and that Christmas gave her a gift of his art, and finally asked her to marry him. She agreed. Frank's "Boys" were very happy for him, but that was not the case with Lizzie's family and friends.

Portrait of Francis Boott, 1881
Oil on canvas, 47 9/16 x 31 3/4"
Cincinnati Art Museum
Their decision to get engaged met formidable - almost insurmountable - opposition from Lizzie’s father, the well-to-do relatives in Boston and from friends. Although they all admired Duveneck’s talent, one can easily imagine the reasons for their opposition.
  • They believed Duveneck to be “illiterate” and unworthy of the well-bred, well-educated, cultured and monied Lizzie.
  • He was a penniless German-American Catholic
  • two years younger than Lizzie
  • whose mother and father ran a beer garden
  • in fact making the beer themselves in the basement of their own home
  • in the uncivilized state of Kentucky.

And it wasn’t simply the difference in their social circles. Duveneck’s lack of money made Boott fear that what the painter really wanted was his daughter’s money, plus he did not want to see anybody come between himself and Lizzie.

The Boott’s closest friends predicted disaster for the marriage. One of them wrote “For him it is all gain, for her it is very brave.”

Oh, the internal conflict that Lizzie must have had! It was a devastating choice between the man who loved her or her own father who had devoted his life to her...and to whom she had also devoted her life thus far.

A letter had been passed down to Lizzie over the years originally an injunction from her mother to her little son before his death. Lizzie inherited these instructions after his loss: “Watch over him, your father, in old age, cherish, love him, desert him not...Devote yourself to him, please him in little as well as important things.” She took this charge very seriously. She could not bring herself to desert her father who had loved her so well. The engagement was broken off...and her heart was also broken.

Lizzie Boott had to leave Florence. She took off for Spain with three women friends from the Hunt class. They copied Velázquez and toured the country both painting and enjoying the art of Spanish masters.

Girl in a Gray Shawl, 1883, by Elizabeth Boott

Upon her return Francis and she sailed to Boston where Lizzie buried herself in her work. She and Annie Dixwell who had gone to Spain with her prepared and held an exhibition. Lizzie had thirty-one oils and thirteen watercolors of Spain and Italy in the show.

Interestingly Frank also found himself in Boston painting portraits commissioned by friends of the Bootts, and Frank had not given up on Lizzie. He was not going to let her go easily. They managed to meet up and continued to see each other secretly.

It was a very stressful situation. And Lizzie continued to keep herself very busy with her art.

Jerry, 1883, by Elizabeth Boott
She traveled south to Georgia painting a trio of portraits of people who had been slaves before the Civil War: Mum Hannah, a mother with a corncob pipe; Neptune, the dignified father and their son, Jerry.

In 1883 alone she was included in exhibitions at the American Water Color Society, Boston Art Club, National Academy of Design, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and Philadelphia Society of Artists. In 1884 she had a one-person show at Boston’s Doll and Richards Gallery. A portrait of a child, Little Lady Blanche, received high praise.

Seeing these successes the Bootts resolved to live in Paris, the art center where soon she and Annie Dixwell were enrolled in the new women’s classes at the Academy Julian - and, of course, she and Frank continued to meet up.

Academie Julian, Women's Class
Finally Frank broke through her ambivalence. When he went to see her off on an ocean liner sailing from Boston, he asked her to take him down to her cabin. When they arrived, he closed the door. In her hand she held a pair of gloves. Gently he removed them and slipped them in his pocket. Then taking her small hands into his big ones, said, “Now we have to decide this once for all. I’m not going to ask you again. This ends it. In spite of your father, will you and will you not be my wife?”

This time she dared not refuse but made one provision; that the marriage would not mean permanent separation from her father - now 73 years old - whom she could not abandon in his old age, and that it should be understood that their home was also his home and their family his family.

“This has been a long affair,” she wrote to an old friend in Boston, “lasting for years. The thing was given up entirely at one time, but on meeting again we find the old feeling is not dead, and we are going to make up life together as we did not like it very well apart...Send me your blessing, dear friend, and say you think I am right. I crave human interests in life. The abstract ones of art are not enough for me.”

Frank and Lizzie's Wedding Photo
On Thursday morning the 25th of March, 1886, a month before her 40th birthday, Lizzie and Frank were married by a Justice of the Peace in the Boott’s apartment in Paris. The day before, Francis Boott presented Duveneck with a legal paper to sign, relinquishing any claim to Lizzie’s estate should she predecease him. He also had his lawyers transfer her estate to him as trustee, a not uncommon practice for a Victorian father determined to protect the assets of a rich daughter. In the fashion of the day, the bride wore dark brown. And the groom borrowed a hundred dollars from one of his friends, a former Duveneck Boy, to cover the expense of the ceremony, and since Duveneck did not know French, Lizzie had to prod him to say “oui.”

Lizzie, Francis, Frank and Ann Shenstone
 After a month-long wedding trip, the newlyweds rejoined Francis Boott at the Villa Castellani, and the two painters set to work in space converted to a studio. They were very happy.  She wrote about a lovely walk they had taken...”We took our lunch to the top of one of the high mountains and spent two or three hours eating, sleeping and enjoying the magnificent view and reading...It seems such a natural thing for people who love each other to belong together, and it makes life so much more interesting to share all one’s thoughts and feelings with someone else.” Autumn continued golden in the Florentine hills, and Lizzie, who was expecting a baby in December, felt extraordinarily well.

Frank Jr. (F.B.D.)
As winter approached little Francis Boott Duveneck was born. Lizzie contently wrote:“I have just been in to see F.B.D. sound asleep...Dear baby, he lies with his long lashes drooping on pink cheeks. It is difficult to hold him now. He dances so in one’s arms and is full of life and spirits. I laugh to think I should have a child like him. I was always so mousey...” When little Frank was five months old, Francis Boott rescinded the prenuptial financial arrangement and having come to see his son-in-law for the good fellow that he was, restored Lizzie’s estate for her “sole and separate use and enjoyment.” And the little family prospered...although things were about to change drastically...

Next Installment: Tragedy Strikes

(This series of blogs are the script for my talk, "Dear Lizzie" at the Greenacres Foundation, Oct. 19, 2013.)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dear Lizzie: The Life of Elizabeth Boott Duveneck, Part II

William Morris Hunt
from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art

Happily at that time Boston was one of the cultural centers of America. One of the movers and shakers in that respect was charismatic artist William Morris Hunt. After returning from his own training in Europe he had been asked by a group of ladies, who had pursued the study of art in Europe themselves, to start a class for them. But he exclaimed, “If I teach at all I shall teach forty!” And Lizzie was one of those fortunate forty students.

Not only did she have the rare chance to study under a man who had learned at the art school in Dusseldorf, under Thomas Couture and Jean Francois Millet, but there was something else that was delightfully different for her. She got to study art in a group setting. Up till now her education had been private. She made many friends in Mr. Hunt’s class, ones that she would keep up with for the rest of her life. Indeed there is much correspondence from Lizzie to this group that gives us a great deal of insight into her life and that of the art world then.

In 1875 there was an event that was the beginning of a big change in Lizzie’s life, a particular art exhibit in Boston. Lizzie’s teacher William Morris Hunt was also a champion of artists of promise. He promoted them and bought their work and exerted himself in every way to help them. After seeing some of 27-year-old Frank Duveneck’s work, Mr. Hunt had sought him out and invited him to exhibit in June 1875 at the Boston Art Club. Frank had sent five paintings for the show:

Portrait of William Adams
the “Portrait of Professor Loefftz, ” the famous “Whistling Boy,” “The Old Schoolmaster,”  “ The Woman with a Fan” and the “Portrait of William Adams.” The pictures were acclaimed by Hunt and by the press, and a good friend urged Lizzie and her father to go and see the work of this “man of unsuspected genius.” They were so impressed that they purchased one of his paintings, the portrait of William Adams. From that time on, Lizzie could not forget Frank’s style of painting. His bold, fluid work was so different from her careful, painstaking approach thus far. And she made up her mind that she had to study with him.

Frank Duveneck painting The Turkish Page, 1877

In 1878 when she and fellow Hunt student had spent the summer studying near Paris with Hunt’s teacher Thomas Couture, they made a pilgrimage to Frank’s studio in Venice. In a letter she wrote to her American friends, “We found him and were pleased...He is a remarkable looking young man, and a gentleman, which I did not expect. He has a fine head and a keen eye and the perceptions strongly developed.”

Almost a year later she and her father went to Munich with the hope of lessons for Lizzie with Frank Duveneck. They rented an apartment there along with a studio for her. Then with trepidation, Lizzie showed Frank Duveneck her work. She did not know whether he would accept her as a student, but was able to write soon thereafter,“Try we did and he accepted at once and is to come tomorrow to my studio. Joy! Do you not all envy me?”
Frank Duveneck, Head of a Girl
He began his lessons with her by sketching a head in paint as she watched - completely fascinated. After the initial work was done in black he used very oily paint modelling it like clay. It was a very different approach than she had learned thus far.

In fact she enjoyed both Frank and his teaching so much that Lizzie came up with an idea to bring her teacher to her own home turf in Florence. When she first suggested that he move there, he answered, “That would be very delightful, but what should I do with my boys?” There were about thirty Americans who studied under him, the Duveneck Boys. “Why not bring them along too?” she suggested. “Well, that might be done. That might be done,” he replied. His boys excitedly agreed and Frank told Lizzie that he would also like a class of ladies as well - a revoluntionary idea for that time. She excitedly contacted her friends from Hunt’s class to come out, and they did.

Lizzie and several others also also made up a special club, the Charcoal Club for evening get-togethers. Duveneck, John White Alexander, Louis Ritter and others sketched and sang and had a good time. With Lizzie at the piano, Ritter played the violin. Duveneck was everybody’s favorite, as much at ease with women as with men. His escapades and humor were legendary with the group. It was not long before Lizzie and Frank’s relationship as student and teacher changed, and they became romantically involved.
Lizzie Boott and Frank Duveneck
Next Installment: Troubled Waters 

(This series of blogs are the script for my talk, "Dear Lizzie" at the Greenacres Foundation, Oct. 19, 2013.)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dear Lizzie: The Life of Elizabeth Boott Duveneck, Pt. I

Elizabeth Boott Duveneck Funereal Effigy
Cincinnati Art Museum
This last half year I have found myself on a very interesting journey. It’s taken me to see places and meet and talk with people that I never would have otherwise. And I would like to say “Thank you” to them all for helping me to find out what I could about the wife of Frank Duveneck, Elizabeth Lyman Boott. Now when I walk into the Cincinnati Wing of the Cincinnati Art Museum and see her funereal effigy - it is like seeing an old friend, “Dear Lizzie.”

Poor Frank Duveneck - he lost his wife after only two years of marriage - almost to the day.
Poor Frankie Jr. - he lost his mother when he was only 15 months old.
Poor Francis Boott - he had lost his only living child and his companion of 42 years.

How it must have reminded him of his own wife’s death just three years after their marriage. Lizzie had been 18 months old at the time. She must have been very familiar with an atmosphere of sickness and grief. A short while before TB took her mother’s life, her grandmother - with whom they had lived - died. Lizzie herself was born just a short seven months after her brother, the Boott’s first-born son, had died.

Francis had to get away - there were too many bad memories in Boston. Why he would go to stay with his sister, her husband and their children in Florence, Italy. They would be one big, happy family!


So the widowed father, his little Lizzie, and her nurse Ann, boarded a steamer, a merchantman fitted as a sailing ship, the Sophie Walker, for a long six-week trip to Italy. I suppose the fact that they made life-long friends with another family, the William Storys almost compensated for the amount of discomfort and seasickness they endured. How excited Francis was to finally reach his sister’s house in Florence but it was a feeling that didn’t last terribly long because Francis and his sister were very opinionated. For example, one relaxed family dinner turned into a heated argument on the proper pronunciation of


advertisement...or was it advertisement? And she also did not hesitate to speak her mind on how Francis was raising his daughter, the result being that Francis refused to speak to his sister for several weeks afterwards. 

Let’s just say that Francis and Lizzie found their own home base in Florence and started making a circuit between various cities in Italy: Leghorn, Pratolino, Rome, Florence and Sorrento...where Lizzie could lie in bed at night and if the door was open, she could look out and see Mt. Vesuvius spouting occasional puffs of fire!

Villa Castellani by Louis Ritter
Cincinnati Art Museum
But realizing that Lizzie needed stability, Francis had the good fortune to find Villa Castellani in Florence. It was big and old and charming - and it was cheap. He wrote in his autobiography: “There were ten rooms, and I had the remarkable rent of $55 a year! I had to furnish it, which I could do then for a trifle...” It was yellow and sat atop a hill on the outskirts of Florence in the neighborhood of Bellosguardo. From the back of the house Lizzie could see olive trees and clusters of straight, dark cypresses; in the front she and her father could sit in the midst of orange-blossoms, a dozen fig trees and an old well as she did her schoolwork or drew. And it was here at the Villa Castellani that her education began in earnest.

Francis and Lizzie Boott
from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art
It is important for you to know a couple of things at this point. Her father was going to give her every opportunity to develop her interests and to receive an excellent education. The story of his own school days would have read rather like a Charles Dicken’s novel: A young boy sent by a well-intentioned widowed mother to a series of beyond strict boarding schools that had him living in very harsh conditions and certainly offered him no opportunity to pursue his interest in music. And then he was also careful to raise her to be a well-educated, refined young Victorian who would fit in perfectly in high society not only of Boston eventually but in Europe also. Her mother’s family were definitely upper class - Boston Brahmins as it were, the equivalent of billionaires. (They had not thought much of Francis Boott. Although he was a Harvard graduate and was a member of the Boott Textile Mills family, he did not have what they considered a proper career.  He wanted to be a musician or a composer.)

Like other girls of her class and time, Lizzie learned to play the piano and violin, and had a good singing voice. She studied French, Italian and German until they oozed out her fingertips. She also took classes in arithmetic, geography, riding and had swimming lessons. And then there were the art lessons. She took her first lesson in drawing from a young artist named Ciardi, whose outlined face is in one of her numerous sketchbooks. When Lizzie was nine or ten, she studied with Greek-born history painter, Giorgio Mignaty. Her uncle, Arthur Lyman, who had come for a visit described her to his family in Boston:
Lizzie Boott by Julian Story
Cincinnati Art Museum

“Lizzie seemed very glad to see me. She looked quite different from what I had expected but I was much pleased with her. She is quite tall (four feet, three inches) and seems healthy. Her short hair parted on one side and her dress gives her rather the air of a boy. She seems very bright and sensible, amiable and affectionate... She is in all respects a charming little girl.”

Uncle Arthur and Giorgio Mignaty
from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art 
We can see their profiles on one of the pages in Lizzie’s sketchbook. Perhaps one could say that as regards Lizzie, Uncle Arthur and Giorgio Mignaty were on the same page.

Lizzie at Twelve
from one of her sketchbooks

from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art 

Looking through her early work we can get a visual impression of the expatriate and artistic community that was very much a part of their lives. When they would come to call, we can almost imagine Lizzie sitting quietly to the side and drawing them as they and her father talked. Since Francis Boott’s own passion was music we find folks coming to Villa Castellani like the

Henry Higgonson, Founder of the Boston Symphony
from one of Lizzie's sketchbooks

from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art 

founder of the Boston Symphony, Henry Higgonson; a music critic from the Boston Transcript and Franz Liszt

Nathaniel Hawthorne, Author
from one of Lizzie's sketchbooks

from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art 

Julian Story, later became one of the Duveneck Boys
from one of Lizzie's sketchbook

from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art 
people like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Robert Browning and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,

And then there were the artists like sculptor William Story and his son Julian, who later became one of the famous Duveneck Boys and Elihu Vedder. You may see some of these sketchbooks online on the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art website.

As she grew into her teens it is also fun to see her copying pictures from a popular novel of the time entitled “Little Bare Foot.” Each Christmas and birthday Lizzie gave her father a present of some of her artwork or an original musical composition and these he cherished and preserved.”
Lizzie and Francis Boott's Calling Card
from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art 
It was a very agreeable lifestyle. They lived in a lovely home. Lizzie and her father had a close, loving relationship. They were both able to develop their talents with better teachers than they might have had back in the States. They were friends and acquaintances with scholars, writers, artists, musicians - and, of course, their families. Their friends they had met on the boat over, the Story’s, had wonderful parties. At one Hans Christian Anderson read The Ugly Duckling which was followed by poet Robert Browning reciting The Pied Piper of Hamelin followed up by a grand march through the house with Story in the lead playing a flute instead of the piper’s reed. One large room in Story’s house had been converted into a little theater with stage and footlights. Here Lizzie at the age of five had taken the part of one of Tatiana’s fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And in this same theater Francis Boott heard one of his musical compositions played, a string quartet at an evening musicale. These people all circulated between Paris, the States and Florence sharing the same continental culture - not completely American and not completely European. And then when Lizzie was nineteen in 1865 at the end of the Civil War, they returned to their own American relatives and a new life.

Next Installment: More Training and An Idea!

(This series of blogs are the script for my talk, "Dear Lizzie" at the Greenacres Foundation, Oct. 19, 2013.)

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Duveneck Girls

Those of you who are familiar with Cincinnati artist, Frank Duveneck, will know that he taught a group of young male students in Europe who were called "The Duveneck Boys," but did you know there was also a group of Duveneck Girls?! Nor did I - until I read the following from Michael Quick's book, An American Painter Abroad: Frank Duveneck's European Years and also from an essay by Carol M. Osborne, Frank Duveneck & Elizabeth Boott Duveneck: An American Romance:

"In September [1879] Duveneck decided to move his class to Florence, rather than to resume in Munich. Although full of art treasures and distinguished expatriates, Florence was not, at that time, thought of as a center for art study or even a place visited by artists from other countries, as for instance, Venice was." So why did he go there?

Elizabeth Boott
Frank Duveneck

"His decision to move there almost certainly was prompted by the urgings of Miss Boott [who was later to become his wife].

“He is the frankest, kindest-hearted of mortals,” she wrote from Munich to painter friends in Boston, “and the least likely to make his way in the world.” 

She had the idea of having him teach a class of women artists - instruction of a sort that was just then coming into vogue - she encouraged him to move to Florence, where she and her father made their home. She also hoped to drum up portrait commissions for him among her rich friends. Inviting the ladies of William Morris Hunt's painting class [with whom she had studied] to come abroad, she wrote that with Duveneck’s instruction they would have 'endless freedom.' It was wonderful, she said, to watch him 'sling the paint.'”

This women's class, put together by Miss Boott, would assure him of the teaching income he might give up by leaving his established class in Munich. Of course, his class of young men did not leave him, but went with him and learned from him in Florence instead. They were taught in one set of studios while the ladies occupied another large one. They were located in the Palazzo Mugnone along the Arno.

"So on October 5, 1879, Duveneck, John W. Alexander, and two others of "the boys", went to Florence, where they were welcomed by Miss Boott and her father. Another fifteen or so followed them alter that month."

Villa Castellani at Bellosguardo, Italy
"Thus it was that a villa on a hilltop above Florence became a magnet for a lively group of male and female art students. The villa was the Villa Castellani, now the Villa Mercede, at Bellosguardo, designed in the 15th century by a follower of Michelangelo and owned in the 19th by a Boston family, who rented out to friends the spacious apartments that surrounded the villa’s arcaded center court. The Bootts had lived there off and on for most of Lizzie’s life. And that was where she partied with this sudden flood of young American friends. The ladies' class joined "the boys" for teas, museum visits, monotype parties, and other social occasions that brightened their long days of hard work." 

"This arrangement continued until April 1880, when most of the young men went to Venice for the summer. During the two years that they lasted, Duveneck's classes in Florence were a success on every count."

*with thanks to the Smithsonian Archives of American Art for the above photographs

Monday, March 18, 2013

Frank Duveneck: The Final Chapter

"Frank Duveneck returned to his old home, Cincinnati, after his wife's death, and there he has since lived. From this time, his vitality went less into his own work and more into that of others, yet his versatile power was demonstrated when he made the superb memorial and when, with the cooperation of Clement J. Barnhorn, he made the statue of Emerson, now in Emerson Hall at Harvard. The bust portrait of Dr. Charles W. Eliot also belongs to that time. In the spring of 1894 Duveneck spent two months in Spain. Most of his time there was occupied in the Prado, where he copied Velasquez, the works he chose being the "Portrait of the Infanta Margarita," the "Equestrian Portrait of Prince D. Baltasar Carlos," "Portrait of King Philip IV, in a Hunting Suit," "Portrait of King Philip IV, of Advanced Age," and "The Idiot of Coria." His latest work of importance in painting was an immense mural decoration, started in 1904 and completed in 1909. It was given in memory of his mother to St. Mary's Cathedral in Covington, Kentucky.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
by F. Duveneck, c. 1903

Charles William Eliot
by F. Duveneck, c. 1902

The most comprehensive exhibition, outside of Cincinnati, ever made of Duveneck's work was, as I have indicated, his one-man gallery a the San Francisco Exposition in 1915. It included thirty oil paintings, twelve Venetian and one Florentine etching, and a replica of the Memorial. This replica was taken from the marble copy in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. In the group of paintings was one of the earliest Munich canvases. It was a portrait of a man with a red fez, its quiet, forceful grasp of character arousing at once a good deal of discussion among Munich artists.

Duveneck has now for many years divided his time between teaching, painting, and advising in all artistic matters of importance in connection with the Cincinnati Museum. Though Duveneck has received a number of honors and medals, he has little to say of them. We know, however, that he is a member of the American Institute of Arts and Letters and the National Academy.

A typical example of Duveneck's naive way of doing things is well illustrated in the following incident. After painting a canvas of "Gloucester Docks," in the summer of 1915, he was offered fifteen hundred dollars for it by someone who saw it there. "No," said Duveneck, "I've got to take that home to the boys and show them that I've been working." He exhibited it in Cincinnati at the Art Club Exhibition, and for the sake of the commission, which would benefit the Club, he put a price of only eight hundred dollars on it. The picture was immediately sold to the University Club. At once Duveneck turned around and himself bought several of the larger canvases in the exhibition, donating them to one of the high schools in Cincinnati.

I will also quote Mrs. Elizabeth Robins Pennell's vivid picture of Duveneck's personal appearance in her book, "Nights," because it must be real, since, except for his now gray hair and less drooping mustache, he has remained the same quiet, easy-going giant during all these years. Mrs. Pennell says in the Venetian chapter, "Duveneck, as I remember him then, was large, fair, golden-haired, with long drooping mustache, of a type apt to suggest indolence and indifference. As he lolled against the red velvet cushions smoking his Cavour, enjoying the talk of others as much as his own, or more, for he had the talent of eloquent silence when he chose to cultivate it, his eyes half shut, smiling with casual benevolence, he may have looked to a stranger incapable of action and as if he did not know whether he was alone of not, and cared less. And yet he had a big record of activity behind him, young as he was; he always inspired activity in others, he was rarely without a large and devoted following..."

Frank Duveneck giving a demo at the Cincinnati Art Club
while smoking a Cavour cigar

And he never has been without a devoted following. The artists and connoisseurs of his own generation have continued to do him honor. His pupils, old and new, in Cincinnati or wherever they may be, are included in what he likes to call "his Family." Of late years he has traveled very little, seldom leaving his Cincinnati studio and his home in Covington for any great length  of time. His closest artistic companions, since he became head of the faculty of the Cincinnati Art Academy in 1900, have been his co-workers, particularly his intimate friends of long standing, Clement J. Barnhorn and the late L. H. Meakin, their studios having been together in the Museum, and their joint labors spent in developing its collections."
Duveneck's "Family,"  Art Academy Students at his summer cottage in Ryland, Kentucky.
Duveneck is holding his famous skillets, originally banged together
to signify that someone needed transport across the lake.

~ from Norbert Herrmann's book, Frank Duveneck, 1918
* You will notice that this book was written while Frank Duveneck was alive. He died in 1919 of cancer in Cincinnati attended by his daughter-in-law, Josephine Duveneck, the year following this book's publication.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mrs. Elizabeth Boott Duveneck

In 1886 Duveneck was married to Miss Elizabeth Boott of Boston, herself a painter of distinction. Miss Boott was born in Boston, and, having lost her mother while still a very young child, was taken by her father to Florence to live with two of her aunts. Later she went to Paris to study painting with Couture and lived with his family. At the age of eighteen, she came to America and studied with William Morris Hunt, who had been a pupil of Couture before falling so strongly under the influence of Millet.

About this time Duveneck's one-man show was held in Boston and was greatly admired by Miss Boott; so much so that she induced her father to purchase the portrait of Mr. Adams, which is now in the Cincinnati Museum.
"Portrait of William Adams" 1874

Duveneck's various portraits of his wife reveal a character refined, womanly, and at the same time marked by firmness, and this latter quality was clearly demonstrated in the present instance. Miss Boott determined not only to own the portrait of Mr. Adams, but to study with the man who had painted it. Accordingly she and her father sought out Duveneck in Munich in 1879, their cab drawing up at the door when he was in the very act of closing his studio to go to Polling, Bavaria. She having got so far, it is not remarkable that the young artist's lack of enthusiasm over teaching a young girl should have been overcome, so he advised her to paint for a while in Munich, but gladly offered to criticise her work on his return. The sequel to this story was their engagement which, however, did not result in marriage until nearly seven years later. They were married in Paris in 1885 and spent the two brief years before her untimely death in Florence, in a villa on the crest of a hill overlooking the city. She died in Paris and lies buried in the Allori Cemetery in Florence, where the memorial figure in bronze, which Duveneck created for it, marks the spot. A son, Frank, survived her. [He went to live with relatives in Boston. Elizabeth's father had a copy of her funerary effigy made in marble and displayed at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston so that her son, family and friends could go and see it.]

A copy of Elizabeth's funerary effigy created by
Frank and Clement Barnhorn, and his final portrait of her
at the Cincinnati Art sad~

Mrs. Duveneck possessed great talent. Her watercolors and canvases, among them powerful studies of figures and landscapes, but chiefly of still life, place her without effort among artists of achievement.

"Apple Tree Branches," 1883 by Elizabeth Boott Duveneck
at the Cincinnati Art Museum

* from Norbert Hermann's book, "Frank Duveneck." The full text is available free online:

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Duveneck & Whistler in Italy

In Florence, Duveneck found it hard to work, owing to his being so well known, in fact pursued, as would appear to have been the case from Pennell's remark in his book on Whistler, that he and Whistler used to run across Duveneck in little out-of-the-way cafes, where he was hiding from them. This lasted for two more years when Duveneck decided to disband his class, thinking it would be better for his group of really fine students to go back to Munich or Paris on account of the opportunity of seeing what was going on through exhibitions and the like.

In 1880 Duveneck became keenly interested in etching, but a visit to America soon interrupted this work. Returning to Venice after about a year, he produced, in 1883 and 1884, some twenty notable plates. Without his knowledge in 1881, Lady Collin Campbell had sent his three etchings of the "Riva Degli Schiavoni, Venice" to London, for the first exhibition of the "New Society of Painter-Etchers" at the Hanover Gallery. The story of how several members of that society suspected that they were the works of Whistler under a nom de plume, is well known, the facts having been put on record various times and Whistler's witty correspondence on the subject being included in "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies."
Riva Degli Schiavoni, Venice No. 1 by Frank Duveneck

Riva Degli Schiavoni, Venice No. 2 by Frank Duveneck

In this connection Seymour Haden later said that after seeing the etchings there was absolutely no doubt with him as to their originator, that he could not help but feel at once the difference of temperament between Whistler and Duveneck.

Duveneck's etchings of the "Riva degli Schiavoni" were made before Whistler made his; in fact Otto H. Bacher, one of the Duveneck Boys in Venice tells us in his book, "With Whistler in Venice," that Whistler saw these etchings as Bacher was helping Duveneck bite the plates, and that Whistler said with characteristic frankness: "Whistler must do the Riva also." Haden wrote to Duveneck at the time, "I assure you, your owrks are the admiration of all who come to our gallery. Pray do not stop your work in this direction; we shall all be much interested in seeing more of it and doing it all the honor we can."
The Riva, No. 1 by Whistler (at the Frick)
"The high vantage point of this scene suggests that Whistler took the view from a window in his lodgings on the Riva degli Schiavoni. To show the bustling activity below, the artist flattens the foreground space, while allowing the row of buildings to recede to the horizon. The domes and campanile of the basilica of San Marco appear just above the rooftops at the far right."

One year after the controversy, Duveneck showed in London another group of etchings which again attracted much interest, Haden testifying his appreciation by buying all that he could get. All of Duveneck's Italian etchings convey his sense of architectural richness and with that the simple pictorial bigness, complete in every way, that characterizes his other work. His plates are superbly conceived and masterly in their draughtsmanship. The plate of the "Rialto" is among those that best convey Duveneck's personal force of conception and touch. Many of his plates have unfortunately been destroyed or lost and few prints are in existence.

The Rialto by Frank Duveneck, 1883

In those Venetian days Duveneck used to see a good deal of Whistler; they were always friendly, but the two were too utterly unlike for the friendship to go beyond a certain point. An amusing little story relates to this time.

"Duveneck and DeCamp, who were printing one day, were sorely in need of paper. They asked Bacher to tell them where he got his beautiful handmade paper. Bacher revealed the secret to the two startled artists in a whisper. Doubtful whether he was merely joking, they nevertheless set out gamely for the market, where to their satisfaction they did find the exquisite paper which was used by a couple of women to wrap up butter. Whistler, who also heard about this, was not slow in laying in as much a stock of the paper as he could get." Of course!

* Text for this post is from Norbert Herrmann's book, "Frank Duveneck" . 1918
which is in its entirety at