Afternoon - Yellow Room

Frederick Carl Frieseke (American, 1874-1939)

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The colorful patterns and glowing sunshine here are signature elements of Frieseke’s work. He painted his wife in this same room under various light effects that he used to heighten the sparkle of the patterning around her.

Look closely at the painting and you will see a ghostly image above the hand on the woman’s lap. This is called a pentimento, meaning “repentance” in Italian. These occur when the paint becomes more transparent with age and reveals changes made by the artist. To find out what was hidden, an infrared reflectogram (IRR) image of the painting was taken (shown below). The IRR shows that the woman was originally holding an open book. The artist painted it out and shifted the position of the woman’s hand.

Curatorial Summary

Frederick Carl Frieseke was born in Michigan but spent most of his life in France. He studied in more conservative Parisian academies before turning to the Impressionist idiom and devoting his summers to painting at Giverny, France. His garden villa there is the setting for many of his works as well as many by other American artists who worked in Giverny. Frieseke was the leader of the Giverny Group, which included American Impressionists who painted near the home of the great French Impressionist Claude Monet. For many years Frieseke painted intimate scenes of women seated in gardens or sunrooms with contrasting light. The figures are not portraits but were regarded as decorative incidents of color compositions and patterns, a concern we also find in Post-Impressionist work such as Edouard Vuillard’s. According to Frieseke’s own statement, he did not make sketches before painting, but took the inspiration for his canvas straight from nature.

Afternoon – Yellow Room is one of several works with similar titles painted in Frieseke’s favorite interior setting. In one version painted in the morning light, the composition is similar to the IMA painting but the sitter is looking back towards the viewer. Other versions, such as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ Yellow Room, show different parts of this bright-colored space, suggesting Frieseke’s preference for depicting his familiar, intimate world as well as the Impressionist idea of painting the same motif from different angles and under various light effects.


Kilmer, Nicholas, Virginia M. Mecklenburg, David Sellin, and H. Barbara Weinberg. Frederick Carl Frieseke: The Evolution of an American Impressionist. Savannah, GA: Telfair Museum of Art, 2001.

(R. C. and N. M. Vose, Boston, Massachusetts);
Mrs. John N. Carey [1859-1938], Indianapolis;
purchased by the John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis, Indiana, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, in 1929 (29.71).

Object Information

Frederick Carl Frieseke (American, 1874-1939)
creation date
oil on canvas
32 x 32 in. (canvas)
36-1/2 x 37 in. (framed)
accession number
credit line
James E. Roberts Fund
Public Domain
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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