11/28/14

Lady in a Garden

I don't much care for impressionism. I know! Shocking. The fact is, I don't know an art historian whose passion is for French Impressionism. In my opinion, its a bit facile and has been overwrought in centuries past. But its opulent, eye catching glory can catch me unawares, as it did tonight when I came across Frederick Frieseke's Lady in a Garden, 1912, The Terra Foundation for American Art.
"Frederick Frieseke was the central figure in the third generation of American artists who worked in the Norman village of Giverny, France. Best known for his impressionist paintings of women engaged in leisure activities, Frieseke captured the transformative effects of outdoor light on color. A Midwesterner who studied both at the Chicago School of Fine Arts and the New York Art Students League, Frieseke left for Paris in 1897 and attended courses at the Académie Julian, an art school popular with Americans. He remained in France permanently, earning various honors, and was named to the Légion d'Honneur in 1920. As a painter of nudes, which were difficult to sell in the United States, Frieseke was attracted by the greater artistic freedom he found in Europe. Frieseke perfected a style referred to as "decorative impressionism," a brilliant synthesis of the traditional impressionist concern for sunlight and atmosphere and the decorative and highly patterned style of artists affiliated with the Nabis (a group of French post-impressionist artists and illustrators who were interested in the expressive use of color above naturalistic representation). After World War I, Frieseke increasingly used his wife and daughter as subjects, his palette became darker, and his surface patterns grew more restrained.
In 1905 Frederick Frieseke discovered Giverny, the idyllic village outside of Paris that was the home of the French impressionist master Claude Monet, and which had become a popular artist's colony two decades earlier. Frieseke and his wife, Sarah O'Bryan, summered next door to the Monet house for fifteen years. O'Bryan had a passion for gardening, as did her famous French neighbor, and the enclosed garden of Le Hameau, the Frieseke's cottage, served as the background to many of Frieseke's paintings. Lady in a Garden typifies Frieseke's favorite subject - a female figure, clothed or nude, in a vibrant outdoor setting. It is a masterful modern interpretation of impressionist en plein air (outdoors) painting. The profusion of flowers creates a decorative surface that flattens any sense of depth. The pattern of green, yellow, and blue vertical stripes of the foreground foliage blends into the green and blue stripes of the woman's dress. The dress and, by extension, the body of the woman meld into the flora in the foreground. Frieseke's use of color evokes the effects of direct sunlight: shadows such as the one on the woman's face are violet, while sunny zones are pale-the green of the bushes tends toward yellow. Paintings such as Lady in a Garden enhanced Frieseke's reputation and won him acclaim."

First of all, I think I would rather watch Monet garden than paint. Secondly, can I summer in Giverny and enjoy the artistic freedom of Europe? Thirdly, it bothers me when artists are classified as 'American' when they spent the majority of their life and career in France.

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