Brock & Co.

Frank Duveneck (1848 - 1919)
Basilica di San Marco, Venice, 1882
Oil on panel
11 3/8 x 9 1/8 inches
nsigned Inscribed on reverse: To my friend Ralph Curtis / FDuveneck Venice 1882
Period frame with aesthetic frieze
The artist
Ralph Curtis, by gift of the artist
Private Collection, Europe

A Letter of Authenticity from Michael Quick accompanies the painting.

Frank Duveneck was a highly influential painter and teacher who helped bring European painting sensibilities to a generation of American artists. Born to a German family in Covington, Kentucky, Duveneck began his artistic career as an apprentice painting altarpieces in Covington. He left American shores to study at the Royal Academy in Munich in 1869. There, Duveneck was particularly swayed by the expressive brushwork, the effective use of light and dark, as well as the essentially realist manner of the Spanish and Dutch old masters, Frans Hals, Diego Velazquez, and Rembrandt van Rijn in particular.

Back in Cincinatti in 1873, Duveneck began exhibiting his paintings both locally and at the Boston Art Club, where his work met with immediate success. By 1875, Duveneck returned to Munich, accompanied by a roving band of American artists. The group was dubbed the “Duveneck Boys,” and the artists painted and travelled together throughout Europe, with Polling, Germany, as a base.

Duveneck and his students relocated to Florence in 1879, with summers spent in Venice. Here, the brilliant local light led Duveneck to experiment with a brighter palette and a naturalistic use of light. Basilica di San Marco, Venice was painted during this vital period in Duveneck’s career. According to Michael Quick, this work can be related to the numerous Venetian etchings that Duveneck created in 1883, both in the architectural subject matter and the deftly indicated figures in the foreground (Letter, June 1, 2009). Here, Duveneck has painted the elegant minarets and domes of the façade set against the dove grays of the sky and piazza. The jewel tones of the famous mosaics seem even more vibrant set against the hazy sky.

Duveneck presented this painting to the socially prominent fellow artist Ralph Curtis (1854–1922). As noted by Michael Quick, Curtis joined Duveneck’s painting classes in Florence in 1880–81, and the two men developed a close friendship that continued when both were living in Venice in late 1882 (Letter, June 1, 2009). After a long European sojourn and the death of his wife Elizabeth Boott, Duveneck eventually returned to Cincinatti in 1890. There, he began teaching at the Cincinatti Art Academy, a post he maintained for the remainder of his career. Duveneck continued to exhibit widely and to great acclaim, and was given a one-man room at the 1915 San Francisco Exposition.