61
61
Frederick Carl Frieseke 1874 - 1939
THE GARDEN POOL
Estimate
1,400,0001,800,000
LOT SOLD. 2,290,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
61
Frederick Carl Frieseke 1874 - 1939
THE GARDEN POOL
Estimate
1,400,0001,800,000
LOT SOLD. 2,290,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

American Art

|
New York

Frederick Carl Frieseke 1874 - 1939
THE GARDEN POOL
signed F.C. Frieseke (lower left)
oil on canvas
25 3/4 by 32 1/4 inches
(65.4 by 81.9 cm)
Painted circa 1913.
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This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Frieseke's work being complied by Nicholas Kilmer, the artist's grandson, and sponsored by Hollis Taggart Galleries, New York.

Provenance

Grand Central Art Galleries, New York
Abby MacDonald Dancer, Middleburg, Virginia, circa 1930s
Andrew Y. McDonald
Daniel B. Grossman Fine Art, New York
Estate of Joan B. Kroc, 1986 (acquired from the above; sold: Christie's, New York, May 25, 2006, lot 56, illustrated; also illustrated on the cover)
Acquired by the present owner at the above sale

Exhibited

New York, National Academy of Design, Winter Exhibition, December 1914-January 1915, no. 156
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Annual Exhibition, February 1915, no. 543, illustrated
St. Louis, Missouri, City Art Museum of St. Louis, Tenth Annual Exhibition of Selected Paintings by American Artists, September-October 1915, no. 54, pp. 28-29, illustrated
(possibly) Cincinnati, Ohio, Cincinnati Art Museum; Detroit, Michigan, Detroit Institute of Arts, Special Exhibition of Paintings by Frederick Carl Frieseke, January-March 1921, no. 3
Savannah, Georgia, SCAD Museum of Art, Nature's Banquet: American Paintings from the Manoogian Collection, January-March 2010, no. 10, illustrated

Literature

Clara T. MacChesney, "Frieseke Tells Some of the Secrets of His Art," The New York Times, June 7, 1914, Section 6, p. 7

Catalogue Note

Nicholas Kilmer, the artist's grandson, writes: Frederick Frieseke’s election as an Associate of the National Academy of Design in 1912, and Hollyhocks, the diploma picture by which he is represented in the Academy’s collection, established him in American expectation, as well as in the American market, as exemplifying pre-eminently the theme of the flowering garden, inhabited (and animated) by a woman whose presence offers scale as well as narrative context. Although he himself allowed, perhaps even cultivated, the image of himself as a garden painter, as represented by the contemporaneous accounts of Clara T. McChesney, it is dangerous to allow our easy welcome of the illustrative aspect of these paintings to obscure their formal rigor.

From our very first encounter with The Garden Pool, there is conflict in the nature of the experience, as there might be in our appreciation of the work going into an architect’s design of a comfortable building. The substance of The Garden Pool depends not on its subject, but its design; and here Frieseke takes liberties that amount to daring. The canvas is consciously, even defiantly, symmetrical, with the model’s bowed head centered so that the composition radiates from it. Despite the garden setting, we are thrown into a conflicting field of strongly defined horizontal and vertical forces, even down to the application of the brush strokes, that accentuate the vertical strength of the bending figure, as well as setting off the abbreviated lozenge of the pool that our knowledge of the world compels us to believe exists on the same horizontal as the floor we stand on. The experience of swirling vertiginous color becomes coherent only because it is organized by the severity of the design of the canvas.

Clearly, the puzzle offered in this composition fascinated Frieseke, since it is one to which he returned. The first of three known versions is a year older than the subject of this essay, from the summer of 1912. Also painted in Giverny, the painting (sometimes known as Reflections), entered the record as Garden Mirror. The same size and orientation as The Garden Pool, it also represents the model centered and wearing the white kimono. (“Nothing in sunlight is white,” the painter’s widow used to quote him–he, in turn, having undoubtedly been affirming an impressionist observation and creed.) Garden Mirror strikes us as being the more simply and directly observed of the two paintings although it does embrace the painter’s characteristic limitation of palette, to a series of pale greens and whites, offset very occasionally by accents of vermilion or rose in the kimono and among the flowers. The season being celebrated is that of hollyhocks.

By the following year, and somewhat later in the season (supposing that we may rely on the evidence in the paintings), Mrs. Frieseke and her gardener have added nasturtiums to the ring around the pool. The garden’s color is more varied. In The Garden, the third iteration of the theme, the model wears a striped gown with which we are familiar from many other Frieseke pictures. She carries a parasol against a more demanding sun than is suggested by the others in the series. So intense is the sunlight that color is almost bleached by contrast, and the fragments of color in the brushwork shimmer, almost in a scrim. The pool, now forced into an oval, is tilted against the painting’s lower edge. Frieseke seldom dated his paintings, but The Garden’s label for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, gives its date of execution as 1913. The Garden (still judging by the vegetation), was executed earlier in the summer than The Garden Pool. The three paintings are remarkably different, one from another, and allow us to see a variety of tactics used to resolve similar problems of design.

The Garden Pool was produced during what we might see as a turning point in Frieseke’s life–1912-13–that requires consideration of a context broader than the borders of the garden where the painter worked. In early 1912, Frieseke had received his first one-person exhibition at New York’s prestigious New York gallery, Macbeth. He was elected to the National Academy and his works were widely exhibited both in Europe and New York; his sales were sufficient to lead to his asking his friend Richard Hudnut to make investments for him; he engaged to purchase an apartment on the rue du Cherche Midi in Paris; a studio fire (in December of 1912) destroyed as many as 30 paintings; he and Mrs. Frieseke (who would soon become successfully pregnant after many disappointments) spent the winter months–December 1912 through the spring of 1913–in Corsica, where Frieseke directed much of his energy to large figure pieces, beach scenes. His selections for the 1913 salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris would consist in five of these, encircling the large Paris studio piece, Avant de Paraitre (or Before her Appearance, now in the collection of the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Jacksonville, Florida). This made a great sensation when it was purchased from the salon by Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art had acquired one of his paintings; Macbeth had mounted his second one-person show in February1913 (an exhibition that included an earlier, larger painting also entitled Garden Pool). This show went on to Detroit and Chicago. In Philadelphia, at the Pennsylvania Academy’s Annual, his large figure painting Youth had been awarded the Temple Gold Medal.

Apart from the studio fire (though even such a loss can simplify one’s choices), by the time Frieseke settled down to his summer work in Giverny, no later than April, it would be reasonable to suspect that the painter was feeling considerable success. But what that success embodied was for him, and would remain, a contradiction. While he enjoyed critical acclaim from his large figures–many of them nudes–their function in the annual exhibitions was more to make and hold his reputation, than to be sold into the dwellings of collectors. For nudes, especially, Americans could not comfortably provide public space. What the public wanted was his gardens.

The Garden Pool addresses both sides of the contradiction. The painting affirms the painter’s disciplined vision of a transitory moment in the garden, true; but firmly joined with his robust knowledge of, and his sympathy for, the figure’s force, and grace, and volume. Of course, by the time the painting has been made, the myth of the “transitory moment” has long since been consumed in a sustained series of gestures: brush strokes, parceled out over a sequence of days, at the same time of day, given the recurrence of similar light and weather. It would be interesting to know, what we cannot, how many hours have been consumed not only in the looking, but in the physical transfer of paint from palette to brush to canvas. There is no evidence in the resulting image of either error or second-guessing. The painting is as complex, and complete, as the transitory moment of vision we are tempted to believe was ever true.

Sotheby's would like to thank Nicholas Kilmer for writing the catalogue essay for the present lot.

American Art

|
New York