The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Frank Duveneck, 1848-1919

Nationality: American
Date of Birth: 1848.10.09
Place of Birth: Covington, NY
Date of Death: 1919.01.03
Place of Death: Cincinnati, OH


Frank Duveneck, a painter, sculptor, etcher and art teacher, was the eldest son of German immigrants Bernard and Katherine Decker. In 1886 he married his pupil Elizabeth Boott, a Bostonian living in Florence.


Duveneck studied art in Munich at the Königliche Akademie under Wilhelm Diez. He began his teaching career in 1874 at the Ohio Mechanics Institute in Cincinnati where his students included Robert Frederick Blum and John H. Twachtman. Returning to Munich in 1878, he began taking painting classes. His pupils, who were described as the 'Duveneck boys', included Otto Henry Bacher, Robert Frederick Blum, Theodore M. Wendel, George Edward Hopkins, John Alexander White, Julius Rolshoven, Charles Abel Corwin and Harper Pennington.

Duveneck met JW in Venice in 1879/80, he and some of his students having left for a two-year sojourn in Florence and Venice in 1879. He had first travelled to Venice in 1873, returning in 1877 along with W. M. Chase and J. H. Twachtman.

In Venice, JW spent some time in Duveneck's studio on the Riva degli Schiavoni, and the two men began to experiment with etching. Duveneck's etchings of Venice are large and bold in effect. They tend to be more detailed than those of JW. According to Bacher, Duveneck's The Riva, No. 2 (1880) so impressed JW, that he etched two versions of the same view, The Riva, No.1 (K.192) and The Riva, No.2 (K.206).

Henry James described Duveneck as 'a very good fellow' producing 'remarkably strong and brilliant work'. Duveneck's works in both oil and etching were shown at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and Royal Society of Painters-Etchers and Engravers in London, a society with which JW refused to be associated, probably because his brother-in-law Francis Seymour Haden was one of its founding members. Duveneck, however, was a member from 1881 until 1889. When Duveneck's etchings were first shown at the Society in 1881, they were thought to have been executed by JW under an assumed name. JW published the story in a pamphlet, The Piker Papers.

In 1915 Duveneck received a gold medal for his portraits and paintings being shown at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. However, the American Art News in New York wrote disparagingly of his work, prompting David Croal Thomson, JW's former friend and dealer, to write a letter of defence. In 1918, following Duveneck's death, he received a letter from Cincinnati announcing a proposed memorial to the artist.


Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Heerman, N., Frank Duveneck, Boston, 1918; Hamilton, John McLure, Men I Have Painted, London, 1921; Duveneck, J. W., Frank Duveneck: Painter-Teacher, San Francisco, 1970; Neuhaus, R., Unsuspected Genius: The Art and Life of Frank Duveneck, San Francisco, 1987; Quick, M., An American Painter Abroad: Frank Duveneck's European Years, Cincinnati, 1987-88; MacDonald, Margaret F., Palaces in the Night Whistler in Venice, Aldershot, 2001; Carolyn Kinder Carr, 'Frank Duveneck', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 25 October 2002).