Nancy Friese came from North Dakota to Cincinnati to study at the Art Academy and found her way to the Taft through her interest in landscape painting. Here the collection of works by the nineteenth-century French artists affiliated with the Barbizon School offered her particular inspiration. Since 1976 she has, like them, devoted herself to painting outdoors, making rapid studies of fleeting effects of light and shadow on foliage and features of the natural environment. She then returns to her studio to work on larger canvases, transferring her impressions to more highly finished compositions in which she attempts to retain the freshness of her initial observations while strengthening the design and organization of landscape elements.
In 1990, her work as a landscape artist won for her the coveted prize of a six month residency at Giverny, France, in the famous home and gardens of Claude Monet. This success encouraged her to ask to show her work at the Taft Museum, and we were happy to be able to invite her to participate in this exhibition. Last July she spent a week painting in the garden of the Taft Museum, and the results of this sojourn are the paintings now shown.
Four small oil sketches done on site and four larger canvases worked up in the studio demonstrate that Friese's work as a plein air painter is no mere pastiche on impressionism. Only in her willingness to discover rare beauty in typical, as opposed to exotic, settings is her affiliation to nineteenth-century French painting made clear. Perhaps more like the postimpressionists, Friese has considered all the historic approaches to landscape representation and pursued a style that is her own and most reflective of her temperament. Her palette is high-keyed and vivid; contrasts of shade and sunlight are pronounced; and foliage masses are conceived as solid volumes that balance and enforce the structure of her compositions. If an analogy should be made, perhaps Friese is more the joyous fauve than the pensive student of naturalistic effects.
Currently, Nancy Friese is a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design where she has appointments in both the departments of painting and printmaking. In 1991 she was awarded her second Visual Artists Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Locally, her works can be found in the collection of Cincinnati Bell Information Services.