Lot 25
  • 25

Frederick Carl Frieseke 1874 - 1939

500,000 - 700,000 USD
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  • Frederick Carl Frieseke
  • On the River
  • signed F.C. Frieseke, l.l.
  • oil on canvas
  • 26 by 32 in.
  • (66 by 81.3 cm)
  • Painted by 1908.


American Art Association, Anderson Galleries, New York, Sale Feb. 4-5, 1932, no. 3942 (as Girl in a Boat)
Macbeth Galleries, New York, 1932 (purchased at the above sale)
Grand Central Art Galleries, 1936
J-C Anaf, Lyon, France, sale Dec. 4, 1994, no. 48, illustrated (as Sur la Rivière)
Berry-Hill Galleries, New York, 1994


(possibly) Paris, France, Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, 19th Annual Exposition, April-May 1909, no. 458
(possibly) Buffalo, New York, Albright Art Gallery, 4th Annual Exhibition, May-August, 1909
(possibly) St. Louis, Missouri, City Art Museum, 4th Annual Exhibition, October-November, 1909
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 105th Annual Exhibition, January-March 2010, no. 115
Kansas City, Missouri, Little Gallery in the Woods, 1932
New York, Berry-Hill Galleries, The Giverny Luminists: Frieseke, Miller and Their Circle, November 1999-January 1996, pp. 15, 28, illustrated


"Subject Pictures and Important Pictures of the Philadelphia Exhibition-Many Good Ones Shown," The New York Times, January 30, 1910, p. 14
Bruce Weber, The Giverny Luminists: Frieseke, Miller and Their Circle, New York, 1995, pp. 15, 28, illustrated
American Paintings XII, Berry-Hill Galleries, New York, 2005, p. 74, illustrated in color p. 75


Very good condition, unlined; under UV: fine.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

We are grateful to Nicholas Kilmer for the following essay.

In Giverny during the spring and summer of 1908 Frieseke emerged as a plein air painter, committing himself for the first time to substantial works representing the figure out of doors.  In December of 1908 he exhibited three paintings in the new manner at the 26th Paris exposition of the Société internationale de peinture et sculpture, and such paintings made up a significant part of his representation at the Venice biennale in 1909.   

The summer of 1908 found Frieseke working out variations on the theme of the female figure boating.  There are at least a dozen paintings in this series, of which several are in notable collections.[1]  With few exceptions, the paintings are of the same dimensions (26 x 32 inches).  Mrs. Frieseke almost always served as model (unless the figure was nude).  Frieseke concentrated on the almost random surface patterns caused in nature ( hence upon the canvas), by the illusory flat forms generated by the passage of light and shade as sun and wind move in the landscape – and move the landscape itself.

Outdoors, Frieseke worked with a deliberation that depended very little on the sinuously accurate draftsmanship he had previously relied on to give his figures and interiors structural coherence.  When we study On the River what stands out first, in terms of the painter's technique, is the painstaking way in which the paint has been applied.  The weight of the impasto, the accuracy of the color, the steady repeated horizontal strokes of the square brush in generating the surface of the little river Epte: all of this argues that Frieseke must have applied himself to the same canvas on several days, when similar conditions of light allowed.

Claude Monet, the Friesekes' neighbor in Giverny, Frieseke's senior by thirty-four years, was well into his series of Nymphéas by 1908.  The Monets and the Friesekes took tea together, and Monet and Sarah Frieseke discussed their gardens; but there is no recorded evidence that Frieseke and Monet ever talked painting.  Nevertheless, the two men found or placed their subjects in the same body of water and against the same vegetation: the pollarded willows and the ragged screen of undergrowth separating the stream from the adjacent fields.  There is a clear fellowship expressed between the progression of the younger painter's observations and the discoveries being worked out by the elder. 

This is one of several instances when we find two of the Americans in the Giverny colony working together from the same subject.  Lawton Parker's The Orange Parasol so exactly replicates the subject of On the River, there can be no doubt that Parker and Frieseke were painting side by side. 

On the River addresses the viewer with disorienting visual contradictions. The river's horizontal plane, patterned by reflections, reads as a vertical until our superior knowledge forces it horizontal again.  The artist adopts the eye's logic also in reducing the variety of observed color to a minimum.  The figure is made to stand apart by the orange of her robe and parasol, which is the only color choice made by the painter.  For everything else he is subject to the whim of nature.  The plein-air painter must be vulnerable to the surprises that accompany honest observation.

On the River is the subtle expression of a painter enjoying the exercise of a  candid discipline that discovers the most saturated color in the deep reds in his wife's shadowed face; the darkest dark within his image to be, in water whose depth is not discernible, the reflected shadow underneath the brim of her white straw hat.

1 Grey Day on the River, Manoogian Collection; Through the Vines, Akron Art Museum; Under the Willows, Cincinnati Art Museum; The Green Boat (often called Lady with a Parasol), collection of Cornelia and Meredith Long; Misty Morn, collection of Max N. and Heidi L. Berry.