Canal Scene with Washerwomen, Venice

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Canal Scene with Washerwomen, Venice
Frank Duveneck
1848-1919
Acquisition Number: 73.38
Medium: Oil on linen
Size: 45 x 37 1/2 in.
Date: 1885

Frank Duveneck was a painter, etcher, sculptor and teacher. He was born in Covington, a Cincinnati suburb in northern Kentucky, and though he had little formal education, he began to paint at an early age, working as an assistant and also executing paintings in Catholic churches in Covington, Cincinnati, Latrobe, Pennsylvania and Quebec. Duveneck went to Munich in 1870 and shared a studio with William Merritt Chase. He was one of an increasing number of American artists drawn to Munich by the expectation of a training that was both broader and freer than that offered in Düsseldorf or Paris. Prompted perhaps by the insistence of parents who struggled to support him, Duveneck was back in Cincinnati in December of 1873. In the autumn of 1874 he took an unpaid position as a teacher of a class in drawing and painting at the Ohio Mechanic’ Institute School of Design. There, he taught and befriended a number of artists including Robert F. Blum, Kenyon Cox, Joseph R. DeCamp and John H. Twachtman. During the 1880s, Duveneck’s style changed, perhaps, it has been suggested, under the influence of Elizabeth Boott, his student whom he married in 1886. In 1888 a great personal tragedy tumbled Duveneck from his prominent position in the international art world and drew him back to Cincinnati. Only two years after their marriage and one year after the birth of their only son, Elizabeth Boott died suddenly of pneumonia in Paris. Duveneck was deeply in love with his wife, and her untimely death virtually broke his spirit. Maria Longworth Storer, an influential museum trustee, stepped in and offered the distraught Duveneck a position at the museum as an instructor in oil painting. She underwrote his salary and constructed a special studio for him on the museum’s third floor. Ironically, while legions of Cincinnati art students benefited from his retreat from active participation in the national art scene, Duveneck’s own reputation waned.