Biography of Frederick Carl Frieseke courtesy of Shiawassee District Library, Owosso, Michigan © Shiawassee District Library
Frederick Carl Frieseke (1874 – 1939) was born in Owosso, Michigan in 1874 to Herman Carl and Eva (Graham) Frieseke. After graduating from Owosso High School in 1893, Frieseke went on to study art at the Chicago Art Institute for a year. In 1895 he moved to New York to study at the Art Students' League, and in 1898 he moved to Paris where he enrolled at the Academie Julian and was influenced by James A. M. Whistler.
During these first few years in Paris, Frieseke spent part of his time doing work commissioned by Rodman Wanamaker. He was also commissioned to paint murals for Wanamaker's store in New York and the Shelbourne Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Wanamaker's interest is credited with providing Frieseke freedom from pursuits other than painting.
In 1906 Frieseke rented the house next door to Claude Monet in Giverny, France for the summer. He and his wife, Sarah Ann O'Bryan, whom he married in 1905, and later their daughter Frances spent their summers there until about 1919. Many of Frieseke's paintings were set in this house or its garden.
Frieseke was increasingly dissatisfied with the formal art forms of his time. In an interview with Clara T. MacChesney, probably in 1912, he considered himself an impressionist and said, "No artist in [the impressionist] school has influenced me except, perhaps, Renoir." His principal concerns were the varied effects of sunlight. As he said himself, "It is sunshine, flowers in sunshine; girls in sunshine; the nude in sunshine, which I have been principally interested in. If I could only reproduce it exactly as I see it I would be satisfied." His subjects were often women seated in sunny gardens or boudoirs. Occasionally he also painted landscapes, still-lifes, and nudes. As he grew older, he painted more of his own life, including his wife and daughter.
Frieseke's paintings won many honours beginning with a silver medal at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904; he also won the gold medal in Munich that same year. The climax in a succession of honours was reached in 1915 when he won the grand prize at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. In 1920 his painting Torn Lingerie won two gold medals and the popular prize at the Chicago Art Institute, based upon the opinions of both other artists and the general public.
|1915 Torn Lingerie oil on canvas 131.4 x 131.1 cm|
In 1904 the French government purchased his Before the Glass, and it was hung in the Luxembourg Gallery. In 1912, after his first solo exhibition, Wanamaker gave Frieseke's La Toilette to the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
|1913 Before Her Appearance (La Toilette) oil on canvas 60 x 59 cm|
After World War I there was a slow but steady decline in Frieseke's popularity. In spite of continuing awards and the acquisition of his paintings by a number of museums, diminishing sales and negative reviews reflected a change in tastes. Critics saw his work as outmoded and overly conservative and Frieseke as a painter of pretty women. It was also during this time that the mood of his paintings became more contemplative, his colours more sombre, and his compositions more static. His style was becoming less French-Impressionist and moving more towards realism.
Frieseke said that "I never compose a picture before Nature, but I paint what I see that is interesting, and which appeals to me at that moment. I put down whatever I see before me. I avoid being conventional as much as possible, for most picture making is conventional. I never change the drawing of a tree, or leave out a bed of flowers. I may not see them, if they do not add to the beauty of the whole." However, his family remembered his wife editing his paintings by removing things from the top of bureaus and tables, which she did not want seen.
Frieseke died August 24, 1939 in Normandy and was buried at Mesnil-sur-Blangy in France.
This is part 1 of a four-part post on the works of Frederick Carl Frieseke:
|1898 Horse in a Field watercolour 25.4 x 35.6 cm|
|1898-99c Paris, Pont Neuf with Barges watercolour 26.7 x 29.2 cm|
|1899 Misty Morning on the Seine watercolour 21.3 x 30.2 cm|
|1900-01c Dutch Landscape watercolour 21.6 x 29.8 cm|
|1900-01c People in the Park oil on panel 17.8 x 22.9 cm|
|1900c Man Ploughing watercolour 21 x 29.2 cm|
|1900c Montparnasse Landscape watercolour 30.5 x 20.3 cm|
|1901 Brittany Landscape oil on canvas 45.7 x 61 cm|
|1901 Hélène oil on canvas 65.1 x 81.3 cm|
|1901 Landscape, Le Pouldu, Brittany watercolour 55.9 x 45.7 cm|
|1901 Luxembourg Gardens oil on canvas 25.7 x 32 cm|
|1901-02c Study of the Nude in an Interior oil on canvas 73.7 x 91.4 cm|
|1901c Mist watercolour 30.5 x 40.6 cm|
|1902 Lady in Pink oil on board 46.3 x 38 cm|
|1902-03c Woman before a Mirror oil on canvas 81.3 x 65.4 cm|
|1902c The Yellow Tulip oil on canvas 81.3 x 63.5 cm|
|1903 Before the Mirror oil on canvas 92.7 x 65.1 cm|
|1903 Girl in Pink oil on canvas 81.3 x 66 cm|
|1903 Medora Clark at the Clark Apartment, Paris oil on canvas 81.3 x 64.8 cm|
|1903 Sleep oil on canvas 88.9 x 114.3 cm|
|1903-04c Girl Reading oil on canvas 81.3 x 65.4 cm|
|1904 Ballerina oil on canvas 146 x 97.2 cm|
|1904 Tea in the Garden oil on canvas 58.7 x 68.9 cm|
|1904 The Balcony oil on canvas 50.8 x 61 cm|
|1904 The Green Sash oil on canvas 116.8 x 81.3 cm|
|1904-07 Woman with a Flower Basket oil on canvas 149.2 x 121 cm|
|1904c Nasturtiums oil on canvas 81.3 x 66 cm|
|1905c Lady with a Parasol oil on canvas 81.9 x 64.8 cm|
|1906 Rest oil on canvas 127 x 177.8 cm|
|1906-09c Under the Willows oil on canvas|
|1906c Lunch in Bed oil on wood 40.6 x 50.8 cm|
|1907-14c The Parasol oil on canvas 82.5 x 82.5 cm|
|1907c Portrait of Madame Gely oil on board 50.8 x 61 cm|
|1908 Lady with Parasol oil on canvas 64.8 x 81.3 cm|
|1908 Reflections oil on canvas 81.3 x 66 cm|
|1908 Through the Vines oil on canvas 81.3 x 81.3 cm|
|1908-09c Late October oil on canvas 65.4 x 81.3 cm|
|1908-09c The Judas Tree oil on canvas 81.3 x 64.8 cm|
|1908c Grey Day on the River oil on canvas 66 x 81.3 cm|
|1908c The Japanese Parasol oil on canvas 81.3 x 64.8 cm|
|1909 Nude Seated at her Dressing Table oil on canvas 162.2 x 131.1 cm|
|1909 Reflections oil on canvas 81.3 x 68.9 cm|
|1909-10c On the River oil on canvas 66 x 81.3 cm|
|1909 Lady Trying On a Hat oil on canvas 162.6 x 129.5 cm|
|1910 Afternoon - Yellow Room oil on canvas 92.7 x 94 cm|
|1910 Lady with the Sunshade oil on canvas 81.3 x 81.3 cm|
|1910-12c In the Garden, Giverny oil on canvas 81.3 x 81.3 cm|