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The Father of American Realism: Frank Duveneck's presence felt in St. Louis

I’ve been contributing over the past few years some of my personal research and findings on Frank Duveneck to various interest groups on the subject.

For those not familiar with Frank Duveneck (1848 - 1919):

Often called the “Father of American Realism,” Frank Duveneck’s career spanned fifty-years – at a time when the dominant artistic styles in Europe and America passed from realism to impressionism and into modernism. John Singer Sargent called Duveneck “the greatest talent of the brush of this generation”. Duveneck was friends with William Merritt Chase and "frienemies" with James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

Duveneck is celebrated for both his art and his legacy as an influential teacher. Unfortunately, his work has been overlooked for a number of years, and scholars are only recently beginning to understand the impact of his career. For this reason, details on his whereabouts, specifically after 1900, can be quite difficult to both uncover and piece together.

He grew up in Covington, Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio, during the days of the Civil War. After training, painting, teaching and living in German and Italy, he eventually came back to live out the rest of his days in Covington, with Summers typically spent in Boston to visit his son, and Gloucester to paint and teach.

A native of Greater Cincinnati myself, and now a resident of St. Louis, I wondered: Had Frank Duveneck ever visited St. Louis?

What I found out: Frank Duveneck’s presence, both physical and artistic, were felt at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, held in St. Louis in 1904.

Duveneck exhibited two paintings at the Exposition, in the Palace of Fine Arts (the building today houses the St. Louis Art Museum). One of the paintings, Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, was exhibited in Hall 25 (today, it's Hall 206). The painting was eventually gifted to Northern Kentucky University in 1975, where it has been ever since.

In addition to being present as an exhibiting artist, Duveneck also served on the Fine Arts jury. In my research, I came across a photo of Duveneck posing with fellow members of the jury at the front entrance to what is today the St. Louis Art Museum. The statue he is standing by is on the left side of the front entrance.

Today, Duveneck's work can be seen in museums all over the world, including Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, The Met in New York City, and the British Museum in London. The St. Louis Art Museum owns 2 Duveneck paintings (one on permanent display) and 2 etchings.

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