Frank Duveneck (1848–1919)
Francis Boott, 1881
Oil on canvas
Cincinnati Art Museum, The Edwin and Virginia Irwin Memorial
Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio, USA, Gift of the Artist/Bridgeman Images
Duveneck was an impoverished artist when he first encountered the wealthy Bostonians Francis Boott and his daughter, Elizabeth. In the summer of 1879, in Munich, Duveneck became Elizabeth’s art teacher. She had been told, she wrote, that Duveneck “had a real genius for imparting to others and had many scholars among young Americans. . . . Joy! Do you not all envy me?” Soon they fell in love. In November 1879, James wrote to his brother, “the natural and logical thing now seems . . . for Lizzie to marry Duveneck.” It took several more years, however, to persuade Francis. At the time Duveneck painted this impressive portrait, his future father-in-law had yet to be convinced.
This is a painting of Francis Boott by Frank Duveneck. James wrote about Duveneck's work first in 1875 and knew him really for the rest of his life. But this is Duveneck's portrait of his father-in-law. Francis Boott was worried about Duveneck. He was provincial as he was from Cincinnati. He spent time in taverns, he was penniless, he was rough. Francis Boott wasn't sure he was a suitable husband for his daughter Lizzie, so Duveneck in retaliation made this magisterial portrait. It's a portrait made to impress his father-in-law. Look what I can do as a painter. Look how much talent I have. Surely I'm the right man for your daughter.