Frederick Carl Frieseke
Born in Owosso, Michigan, Frederick Frieseke studied at The Art Institute of Chicago beginning in 1893, before going East to the Art Students League in New York City in 1897, and then to Paris in 1898. There, he studied at the Acadamie Julian, and with James Abbott McNeill Whistler for a short period at the Acadamie Carmen.
Frieseke’s earliest mature works, images of individual women in interiors painted in fairly close tonalities, reflect Whistler’s influence, but once he and his wife settled, in 1906, in the art colony at Giverny, where Claude Monet resided, Frieseke rapidly developed a very original aesthetic which would have an impact upon almost all the later figural painters among the colonists.
The Friesekes rented a house, surrounded by tall walls, which had been the residence of Theodore Robinson, one of the founders of the Giverny art colony. There they developed a sumptuous, colorful garden which served as the setting for many of Frieseke’s pictures. The outside of their house was painted in strikingly bright colors, yellow with green shutters, while the living room walls were lemon yellow and the kitchen, a deep blue. The artist also maintained a second studio on the Epte River, which ran through the town, where he painted many of his renderings of the nude outdoors.
In Giverny, Frieseke concentrated upon monumental images of women, usually single figures, posed in domestic interiors or sun-filled outdoor settings, often in the floral garden his wife tended so conscientiously. But the rendition of sunlight, not flowers, was Frieseke’s primary concern. As he himself acknowledged in 1912, “It is sunshine, flowers in sunshine, girls in sunshine, the nude in sunshine, which I have been principally interested in for eight years. . . .”
Unlike the earlier artists in Giverny, such as Robinson, Frieseke’s Impressionism was an unreal construct, his sunlight and color entirely synthetic; one modern writer has noted that “His light hardly seems to be plein air light at all. In fact it seems entirely artificial … a stunning concoction of blues and magentas frosted with early summer green and flecks of white.”
These qualities are abundantly apparent in In the Doorway (now, Good Morning),probably painted around 1912 or the following year, with its counterpoint of pinks, greens, and yellows, depicting his model entering the Friesekes’ Giverny home from the garden. Frieseke’s art has often been identified as “Decorative Impressionism.” Despite the immediacy of the pose, and the moment of introduction defined by the picture’s present title, the emphasis on pattern and decoration in the model’s striped dress, contrasted with the sparkling color pattern of the garden’s blooms, and the concomitant flattening, two-dimensional effects, ally the work more with the painting of the Post-impressionists than with the perceptual aesthetics of orthodox Impressionism.
Though the Friesekes remained in Giverny for fourteen years, until 1920, neither they nor any of their fellow artists who arrived in the early twentieth century became close to Monet. Frieseke acknowledged the influence of and his admiration for the art of Auguste Renoir; certainly his rounded and sensual figural types are very close to those of the French master.
Marcelle, one of the artist’s favorite models, appears in many of his pictures. The parasol-a literal sun shade-is a very common motif in Frieseke’s art; it both protects his lovely female models and further emphasizes their position as articles of beauty and recipients of the spectator’s gaze. Positioning the female figure on a threshold, between the interior and the outdoors, between shadow and sunlight, was a favorite motif among American Impressionists.
As far as the painting known under its present title of Good Morning, but formerly as In the Doorway, or the alternative, The Neighbor, the picture projects the ease and comfort of well- established, domestic living, and harmonious intercourse among sophisticated residents and visitors. This, in fact, reflects the character of the Giverny art colony by the first two decades of the present century, one which had little interaction with the local peasant population that had figured so prominently in the paintings of the 1880s and 1890s by Robinson and his colleagues. For both their subject matter and their life styles, the later art colony members retreated within the walls of their increasingly genteel residences.
Frieseke’s aesthetic influenced a whole generation of Americans in Giverny; significantly, almost all of the major figures of this group were from the Midwest, and like him, had first studied in Chicago; these included Lawton Parker, Louis Ritman, Karl Anderson, and Karl Buehr. Frieseke’s innovative techniques gained him international fame following his abundant representation in the 1909 VeniceBiennaLe, while he and his colleagues achieved great renown in their native land after successful exhibitions held in New York City in 1910.
written by WILLIAM H. GERDTS
Many Frieseke posters, prints, note cards, puzzles, address books and catalogs are available for sale at the Arts Center.
Some of the images on these pages were made possible because of the kind permission of
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