Afternoon at the Beach
Afternoon at the Beach
Afternoon at the Beach
Afternoon at the Beach

http://www.heatherjames.com/multimedia/frederick-carl-frieseke-afternoon-at-the-beach
Frederick Frieseke was born in Owosso Michigan in 1874. He studied art at the Art Institute
of Chicago in 1893 and then at the Art Students League in New York City in 1897. He
moved to Paris in 1898 and studied at the Acadamie Julian and then for a short period at
the Acadamie Carmen with James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
Frieseke’s early work, consisting of images of women in interior settings, with their fairly
close tonalities, reflects Whistler’s influence on him. However, once he and his wife
moved to the art colony in Giverny in 1906, where Claude Monet resided, Frieseke came
into his own aesthetic. In Giverny, they rented a house and cultivated a colorful garden
that became the backdrop to many of Frieseke’s paintings. During his time in Giverny,
Frieseke mostly painted images of women, posed in either domestic settings or sun-filled
outdoor settings. However his main focus in all of his paintings was on the sunlight. He
himself said “It is sunshine, flowers in sunshine, girls in sunshine, the nude in sunshine,
which I have been principally interested for eight years…”
Unlike the artists that preceded him, Frieseke’s impressionism was an unreal construct;
his sunlight and color were entirely synthetic. The parasol became a frequent motif in
Frieseke’s work, both protecting his female models and further emphasizing their position
as articles of beauty and the recipient of the viewer’s gaze. Like many Impressionists,
Frieseke also frequently positioned his female figure on a threshold between the interior
and the outdoors, between the shadows and the sun. After World War I, Frieseke and his
family moved to Normandy because he felt France offered him more freedom of expression
than the US. Frieseke himself said “I stay here because …there are not the Puritanical
restrictions which prevail in America…I can paint a nude in my garden…and not be run
out of town.” Ironically it is Frieseke’s nudes, which were never popular with the American
Public, that are considered to be his best work. Despite his work winning many awards
and being acquired by a variety of museums, after World War I there was a decline in
Frieseke’s popularity. Critics saw his work as outmoded and overly conservative. It was
during this same time that the mood of Frieseke’s paintings became more contemplative,
his colors muted and somber, and his composition more static. His style was beginning
to make the shift from French impressionism to Realism.
Frederick Frieseke’s earliest mural work was for his patron, Rodman Wanamaker. Frieseke
painted mural decorations that were installed in Wanamaer’s New York department store
in 1904 and 1907 and for the Rodman Wanamaker Hotel in 1905, the Shelburne Hotel in
Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1906 and the Amphitheater of Music in New York in 1908. Art
historians credit Wanamaker’s constant commissions as being the sole reason Frieseke
was able to devote himself to painting. Afternoon at the Beach is one of Frieseke’s murals
commissioned by Wanamaker for the Hotel Shelburne. The mural, designed as a single
composition, but completed in segments, depicts a beach scene with figures, principally
elegant young ladies, a few children, an occasional male and even a donkey and a few
horses appear.Unfortunately, the origins and inspiration for the commission are not known.
It is clear that the murals were studio paintings, perhaps painted from sketches observed
in nature, but how much was observed and how much invented? There is no record of
where the sketches may have been made, nor their source.
Sarah Anne O’Bryan, known as Sadie, who was Frieseke’s wife, was a model for many
of the figures, elegant and almost six feet tall, she was intelligent, dramatically gregarious
and variously talented. The poise and assurance of the figures were undoubtedly inspired
by Sadie. Frieseke must also have taken comfort and inspiration from Joaqin Sorolla
whose beach paintings at the annual Salons of the Société des Artistes Français depicted
forced, horizontal compositions, and like Frieseke’s Shelburne murals, depend on repeated
compositional elements and large figures occupying the foreground to accentuate the
depth of the horizon. Where Sorolla used sails of ships to crowd the upper edge of his
canvas, Frieseke employs gaily striped tents and umbrellas.
The murals were installed in the Hotel Shelburne under Frieseke’s supervision in February
1906.

Telfair Museum Of Art, Savannah, Georgia, Frederick Carl Frieseke; The Evolution Of
An American Impressionist, 2000/2001; travelling to Dixon Gallery & Gardens, Memphis,
Tennessee, 2001; San Diego Museum Of Art, San Diego, California, 2001; Terra Museum
Of Art, Chicago, Illinois, 2001

N. Kilmer, Frederick Carl Frieseke; The Evolution Of An American Impressionist, Princeton
University Press, 2000, reproduced p. 139.
International Studio An Illustrated Magazine Of Fine And Applied Art, Volume Forty-Three,
Comprising March, April, May & June 1911; numbers 169 to 172; ”American Artists In
Paris” pages 263-270.
L’Art Decoratif, Revue Mensuelle D’Art Contemporain, 8me Annee, 2 Semestre, Juillet
1906-December 1906; “La Decoration D’un Hotel Americain” page 195-200

Commissioned by Rodman Wanamaker for the Hotel Shelburne in Atlantic City
David David Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

About Frederick Carl Frieseke

Frederick Carl Frieseke is a second-generation American Impressionist who spent much of his productive time as an expatriate in France. Frieseke studied first at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students League in New York before moving to France for the Académie Julian, where he learned from Benjamin Constant and Jean-Paul Laurens, and later the art colony Giverny made famous by Claude Monet. Frieseke was deeply influenced by the work of James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, evidenced in his own painting style characterized by a consideration of color and pattern, broken brushwork, and decorative elements. A number of his works were painted en plein air, and feature the garden of his house in Giverny. Female figures, flowers, and domestic interiors and exteriors were the recurring images of his paintings.

American, 1874-1939, Owosso, Michigan

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