Due to unusual circumstances, this Frederick Fursman (1874 – 1943) portrait had a foreshortened stretcher bar. This gave the top-left of the portrait, where there is a painting in the painting, cropped dimensions and unfortunately part of the woman was folded back and lost from view. The portrait had been like that for some time, and the wear and tear of the stretcher bar caused major areas of loss. In-painting was necessary to restore the top margin, and a new stretcher bar was prepared, one that matched the dimensions of the painting. We also restored the frame, using casts to in-fill lost ornamentation. This is a wonderful, introspective portrait, and now its scope is back to how the artist intended it.
A painter and teacher, Frederick Fursman (1874 – 1943) was born in El Paso, Illinois and studied in Paris at the Academy Julian and in Chicago at the Art Institute. Early in his career, he painted in France in an impressionist style, depicting the landscape of Brittany and figures in that landscape.
In 1910, he and fellow artist Walter Marshall Clute founded a summer school of painting in Saugatuck, Michigan, which would later become Ox-Bow. It was to draw inspiration from the Smith Academy and the Academe Julian, encouraging the bohemian social life of Brittany and the literary soirées of the evening clubs in Chicago. He explained to a reporter in 1930, “We found the spot one day by chance as we walked along the river and cut through the woods to the lagoon. That was in 1910. Some of my pupils at the Art Institute had been working in a summer class at Sauguatuck with Walter Clute and me for several years…I found the place as charming as its name, and this spot, close to the village and yet quite apart from it…was ideal for our purpose. The Inn was already operating. The oldest part of the present building had once been an Indian fur-trading post. Later, it had served as a lumberjack’s hotel. When the axmen left the fisherman came–now the artists.”
While serving as director, Fursman rented the local lighthouse from the government for $10 per year, and would commute to work either by swimming or by rowboat. He supplied the school with its personality and strength, encouraging free expression, experimentation, and the active yet disciplined pursuit of plein-air painting. In 1920 he bought a home in downtown Saugatuck, and in 1931 he organized the Saugatuck Arts Association.
By 1913 and 1914, when he had returned to Brittany, he was less focused on representation in his paintings and had turned increasingly to abstraction with sensational color that showed the influence of the French fauvre painters.
Fursman exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy, Corcoran Gallery, and the Art Institute of Chicago. His work is in the collection of the Toledo Museum of Art.