The Italian Presence in American Art, 1860-1920

By Irma B. Jaffe | Go to book overview

1887, the Duvenecks moved there with Lizzie's father. Several of Frank's old colleagues--the artists Louis Ritter, Julius Rolshoven, and Theodore Wendel--were also in town, and Frank soon became involved in painting with them--like old times. But for an artist who was a married woman with a baby and an elderly father and a household and both business and social obligations, Paris was not a carefree center of artistic opportunity. When the Italian wetnurse announced that she wanted to go back to Florence, Lizzie worried that she would have difficulty finding a replacement. Still, by the end of January she was able to write Henry James in London that despite what they all suffered from the tyranny of Baby, she had taken up watercolors again and found them easier to manage than oil paintings, given her situation. He wrote that he was pleased to have this news, since he had always thought her talent for watercolors was rare, closing with his usual refrain of wishing he could be with her, but was too busy. "I am also a père de famille--my little brood increases always & I have no Gabio--but have to do it all myself." 14

One of the watercolors Lizzie was working on that winter was the large finished study of the Villa Castellani (Plate 109); in addition, she was posing to her husband for a full-length portrait ( Cincinnati Art Museum). Both works were to be exhibited at the Salon that May. But it is doubtful that Lizzie ever knew that she was to have a double presence there. On the 18th of March, the very day that the Salon jury made its final choices, she took a chill and, as her husband wrote to his family in America, "after four days of great suffering and of pneumonia," Lizzie Boott died early in the morning of March 22. 15

Deeply grieved by the loss, Henry James in England and Fenimore Woolson in Italy sent conflicting words of comfort to Lizzie's father. James wrote that the only possible consolation he could think to express was that death would spare her the "perpetual struggle and disappointment" that would result from the easy laxities of the man she had married. 16 From Bellosguardo, Fenimore comforted Francis Boott: "In all your grief and loneliness, it must still be a pleasure to remember how happy her life was during these last two years--a woman understands a woman, and I think she was one of the happiest wives I have ever known." 17 In the spring, Lizzie's husband and father took her back to Italy to be buried in the Campo Santo degli Allori not far from her childhood home at Bellosguardo.


NOTES
1.
This essay is derived in part from a book-length manuscript, The Education of Lizzie Boott. James correspondence with the Bootts is held by the Houghton Library, Harvard University. Selected letters have been published in Henry James, Letters, ed. Leon Edel , 4 vols., Cambridge, Mass., 1974- 1984. The excerpts that follow below are quoted with the kind permission of the Houghton Library and Alexander R. James, literary executor.
2.
The Duveneck family retains selected documents, papers, letters, poems, paintings, drawings, and watercolors. The bulk of the Lizzie Boott material, however, was the gift of the artist's son, Frank Duveneck, and his wife, Josephine, to the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution ( Frank Duveneck and Elizabeth Boott Duveneck Papers). I am indebted to the painter's heirs and executors for permission to quote from this material and to reproduce works of art in their hands.
3.
F. Boott, Recollections, Boston, 1892.

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