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Frank Duveneck
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Covington, Ky.
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
Renowned as a painter and etcher in the late 19th century, Frank Duveneck was one of America’s important art instructors during the first two decades of the 20th century. He was recognized with a special gold Medal of Honor for his “distinguished contribution to American art” at San Francisco’s 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE). Duveneck was born in 1848 to German immigrant parents in Covington, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. He showed artistic talent at an early age; his earliest known painting is from 1860. As a teenager he apprenticed under Johann Schmitt (1825-1898) and William Lamprecht (1838-1922), painting religious works for Catholic churches. In 1869 he traveled to Munich to attend the Bavarian Royal Academy of Art, where he studied Old Master painters under Wilhelm von Diez (1839-1907) and was influenced by the works of German realist painter Wilhelm Leibl (1844-1900). He would spend most of the next thirty years in Europe. Duveneck studied at the Academy for four years (with an interruption in 1872) and painted some of his best-known works, including Whistling Boy (1872, Cincinnati Art Museum). With a cholera epidemic raging in Europe and short of funds, Duveneck returned home in 1873. He attempted to resume his earlier career as a church decorator without success, and the next year accepted a position teaching painting at the Cincinnati’s Ohio Mechanics Institute. An exhibition of his work in Cincinnati received little praise. However, he began to receive portrait commissions. An 1875 exhibition of his works in Boston and New York elicited praise, with Henry James (1843-1916) calling him “an unsuspected man of genius.” The sale of his works provided the funds for Duveneck to return to Munich later in 1875, accompanied by his former student John Twachtman (1853-1902). Duveneck re-enrolled at the Royal Academy, where he became part of a group of American artists, including William Merritt Chase (1849-1916). In 1877 Duveneck, Chase and Twachtman went to Venice for nine months. On returning to Munich, Duveneck began teaching. Among his students was a group of women artists, including Elizabeth Boott (1846-1888), a Bostonian who0 resided in Florence with her father, a widower. While working in Europe Duveneck exhibited in New York City at the National Academy of Design’s annual exhibitions in 1877 and 1878 and the Society of American Artists in 1878. In 1879 his student Elizabeth Boott convinced him to move to Florence to teach, which he did while spending summers in Venice, accompanied by several of his artist friends who became known as the “Duveneck Boys.” He began creating etchings in 1880, printed by his friend Otto Henry Bacher (1856-1909), through whom he met James McNeil Whistler (1834-1903). In 1881 a friend sent three of his etchings to London, where they were mistakenly attributed to Whistler by Whistler’s brother-in-law, the artists and physician Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), causing a notable furor. He created thirty-two etchings in all, mostly Venetian scenes. Duveneck spend the next several years in Florence and Venice, and in 1886 married Elizabeth Boott after a long courtship. After their son was born the following year, the couple moved to Paris, where she died of pneumonia in 1888, soon after he completed a full-length portrait of her (Cincinnati Art Museum). After arranging for her burial in Florence, Duveneck returned to Cincinnati in 1889 to teach and paint. With the assistance of the sculptor Clement John Barnhorn (1857-1935), Duveneck created a bronze monument for his wife’s grave, which he installed in 1891. For the next several years he traveled widely in Europe and America while continuing to exhibit, winning a medal at Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition and honorable mention at the 1895 Paris Salon. From 1898 Duveneck spent summers in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where he painted colorful landscapes. In 1900 he began teaching at the Cincinnati Art Academy, becoming Dean in 1903. His paintings shown at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo were awarded a silver medal. He served on the international awards jury for the 1903 St. Louis Exposition. Duveneck was elected as an associate of the National Academy of Design in 1905 and a full member in 1906. He was a member of the International Jury of Awards for San Francisco’s PPIE and was also a member of the Group Jury for Paintings and Drawings and the Group Jury for Etchings and Engravings. A gallery at the PPIE contained thirty of his paintings, thirteen prints and a cast of his memorial for his wife. In 1917 the University of Cincinnati awarded him an honorary doctorate. Duveneck died of cancer in early 1919. (TNB 2/2015) Selected bibliography: Neuhaus, Robert. Unsuspected Genius: The Art and Life of Frank Duveneck. San Francisco: Bedford Press, 1987 Duveneck, Josephine W. Frank Duveneck, Painter-Teacher. San Francisco: John Howell, 1970.