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Frank Duveneck

Frank Duveneck was widely regarded in his own day as an influential painter and teacher both at home and abroad. He was born in Covington, Kentucky where he spent his childhood and discovered painting at a relatively early age. Although he received little training during these early years, his family recognized his natural talent and encouraged him to travel to Munich. Duveneck arrived there in 1870 at the age of twenty-one, and he quickly demonstrated his exceptional artistic promise. He began painting portraits with a dark and muted palette, inspired by the style of the famous Dutch artist Franz Hals. When Duveneck returned briefly to America in 1873, he exhibited a group of these portraits at the Boston Art Club. The show was a tremendous success and Duveneck received considerable praise for his work; in an article for The Nation, Henry James wrote of “the discovery of an unsuspected man of genius,” comparing Duveneck to the great Spanish painter Diego Velazquez.

After returning to Munich later that year, Duveneck established an art school for American and English students. He attracted a devoted following who became known as the “Duveneck Boys.” Duveneck opened another school in Polling, Bavaria, and it was there that he first discovered the pleasure and challenge of outdoor landscape painting. In 1879, he was persuaded by the artist Elizabeth Boot to move his school to Florence, and he spent the next several years painting and teaching in Italy. During this period, Duveneck’s style underwent a further transformation. He began to more fully embrace the brighter palette of the Impressionist style, influenced no doubt by the light and color of the Mediterranean, as well as by the artists Sargent and Whistler whom Duveneck met and befriended during this time. In 1886, he and Elizabeth Boot were married after a long period of courtship; however, their happiness was short-lived as only two years later Elizabeth died suddenly of pneumonia.

After his wife’s tragic death, Duveneck returned to the United States in 1888. He settled permanently in Cincinnati, and two years later, he became an instructor at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. He spent the summers in Gloucester, Massachusetts where he produced a significant number of landscapes and seascapes using the lighter palette and loose brushwork, which he had adopted during his time in Italy. Duveneck maintained two studios in Gloucester, one for morning light, and another for afternoon and evening light.