Bridge of Sighs (2nd plate). 1885. Etching. Poole 29.i/ii. 12 x 9 3/4 (sheet 14 x 11 3/4). Rare impression of the first state before the edition 100 signed proofs of the second state published by Robert Dunthorne, London. Illustrated: Print Collector's Quarterly 25 (1938): 318. A rich impression with plate tone printed on sturdy wove paper with full margins. Provenance: Cincinnati Museum (duplicate); Dr. Sam L. Greenwood; Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, Ohio. Monogrammed, dated and annotated 'Venice' in the plate; signed in pencil. $4,500.
A beloved teacher and mentor, figural painter Frank Duveneck helped introduce a new realism and attention to bravura paint effects to fellow American artists in the late nineteenth century. Born Francis Decker to working-class German immigrant parents in the Cincinnati, Ohio suburb of Covington, Kentucky, Duveneck lost his father at a young age and adopted his stepfather's surname. As a youth, he worked as a sign-painter before serving as an assistant to German-born church decorator Wilhelm Lamprecht (1838-after 1901). In 1870, at the age of twenty-one, he traveled to Munich to further his study of decorative crafts, but soon enrolled in the Royal Academy to study painting instead. A brilliant pupil, Duveneck was deeply influenced by such teachers as progressive painter Wilhelm Leibl (1844-1900), who emphasized the expression of sitters' individual personae along with the use of a dark range of colors and slashing brushwork derived from the dramatic portraits of seventeenth-century Dutch and Spanish masters. Duveneck's early works broke new ground in their powerful realism and bravura technique.
Financial necessity compelled Duveneck to return to Cincinnati in 1873 for two years, during which he successfully exhibited his portraits and figure studies in Boston and began his important career as a teacher with a post at the Ohio Mechanics Institute. When he again took up residence in Munich, in 1875, Duveneck was widely respected among his American contemporaries. In 1876 he visited Paris, and the following year he worked in Venice in the company of John H. Twachtman, his former pupil in Cincinnati, and William Merritt Chase. In Munich and in Polling, a village in the German province of Bavaria, where he painted landscapes, he conducted his own painting class, which attracted a host of young soon-to-be-prominent American artists. With this group, dubbed the "Duveneck Boys" (although they included women), Duveneck spent almost two years in Florence and Venice, beginning in 1879. In Venice, working with his student Otto Bacher (1856-1909) and expatriate American artist James McNeill Whistler, he began to experiment with etching, a print medium. In his paintings, his colors lightened as he took up lively peasant subjects.
In 1886 in Paris, Duveneck married his former pupil Elizabeth Boott, a Boston-born expatriate living in Florence. Devastated by her sudden death two years later, he relocated permanently to Cincinnati and resumed teaching. He made numerous return visits to Europe and joined the seasonal artists' colony in the picturesque coastal village of Gloucester, Massachusetts, where he painted landscapes. As his eyesight failed, the quality of Duveneck's painting declined. His status among his contemporaries remained high, however. On the founding of the Society of Western Artists in 1896, Duveneck was elected its president, and he received numerous other honors, including a special gold medal at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915, four years before his death at the age of seventy-one.
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