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.)