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.