Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Frank Duveneck: The Greatest Brush Presented by James Ott

Villa Castellani, Bellosguardo - Frank Duveneck - www.frankduveneck.org
Villa Castellani - Residence

A Cincinnati Art Class - Kenton County Library
It is clear that the author, James Ott, has extensive experience and knowledge to write, but to create the biographical story of Frank Duveneck reveals, also, an extensive amount of research and knowledge of the art world, that has resulted in a magnificent, comprehensive book of this, for many, unknown artist. You will learn not only of the personal life of Duveneck, but also watch the evolution and the broad range of artistic work he successfully achieved...

But in telling the story, Ott has expanded into the lives of artists, such as John Singer Sargent, working at the same time and places where Frank Duveneck worked and lived, which included both Europe and America. There are many samples of the various forms he used and we also meet the Duveneck Boys, who he taught, prior to expanding also to teach women, especially a young woman he ultimately married. I've provided as many examples of his work to acquaint those who may not know him and feel sure you will be both as delighted and thrilled as I to have the opportunity to learn more intimately through Ott's book.

Note: This video is included for information and does represent endorsement of the company.

The Greatest Brush:
Love, Tragedy and Redemption of Artist

Frank Duveneck

By James Ott

portrait of Josephine in
wedding dress...

Italian Girl with Rake - Frank Duveneck - www.frankduveneck.org

There was an intriguing animosity by Henry James about his relationship to Frank's future wife with Duveneck and he wrote about it quite often. Still he was able to recognize that his wife was able to add guidance and support to Frank's career. For instance, she realized that Frank's would be better off if they went to Paris, and also in Florence. For instance, she realized that Frank's career would be better helped if they went to Paris, and also in Florence.  His work changed exhibiting "Golden light saturates the atmosphere of Duveneck's genre paintings..." 

The reality of that change certainly can be seen in comparing the portrait shown on the cover, Whistling Boy, versus Italian Girl With a Rake!"

I think I was most fascinated that he had been taught by the Benedictine monks and then used what he'd learned to create some of the most beautiful murals for churches across the country... One three-panel mural is located in Covington...

Three panels of Duveneck's Mural at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington

I learned much from this book, especially since I don't  have an extensive art appreciation background, but certainly formed my personal opinion that I preferred Duveneck's later works rather than the darker portraits he earlier produced. I was amazed at the amount of work he produced, especially for each individual painting! It is obvious just by viewing his work, his talent was great and broadly presented.

The book itself by James Ott is exceptionally done. The over 300 pages not only shares a narrative tale but there are ample samples of his work and/or information about other's involvement in his life, all of which is footnoted. There is also a brief bio on those individuals included in the book, such as for John Singer Sargent, who was the artist who placed the title "the greatest brush" of the generation, on Duveneck. In addition to a list of his resources, there is an appendix showing where his works can be found, owned by Institutions...as well as a complete chronological appendix showing the important dates of Frank's life. For instance, you can easily discover that he met Elizabeth Boott, marries in 1886, and then she dies in 1888.

Obviously this book is an excellent source itself for those interested in historical biographies, especially in the art world. But, readers who enjoy the genre will find this a totally comprehensive book that will pull you deeply into the artistic world of Frank Duveneck... Highly recommended...


The story of Frank's personal life was sad, especially given the artistic gifts he had to give the world.  First, Mr. Boott, his future father-in-law was not impressed when he met Duveneck,  though  and Frank seemed to have an interest in his daughter right from the beginning... "Papa" looked over the painter carefully as his daughter talked, his busy mind probing with the question: What kind of man is he? And he answered his own question quickly: He was an artist and looked every bit like one, from his loose attire and the paint on his hands. He was certainly different from them, dressed spiffily in current fashion... Indeed they might have been from different worlds, but that didn't stop their growing relationship. Yet two years after their marriage, Lizzie had a child and had died. In one way, this brought the two men that had both loved her more together and they mutually agreed that Frank would be unable to care for the baby... thus losing not only his loving wife and child, but having to move on to the locations he needed to be in order to work. 

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