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 Frederick William Kost  (1861 - 1923)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: coastal views, landscape and marine painting, photography

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Ad Code: 3
Frederick William Kost
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
This following biography was researched, compiled, and written by Geoffrey K. Fleming, Director, Southold Historical Society, Southold, NY.

FREDERICK WILLIAM KOST, N.A. (May 15, 1861 - February 23, 1923)

Landscape painter.  Born in New York City, Frederick William Kost (a common error is the listing of his middle name as "Weller" - though some sources cite it was "Weller," in fact there are several known examples of his paintings signed "Frederick William Kost," which indicates his middle name was, indeed, "William") was the son of German immigrants Catherine (b. 1826) and Joseph Kost (b. 1826).  Joseph was a hotel keeper with enough wealth to employee three household servants in the early 1870's.

By 1870 Frederick Kost was living with his parents and siblings (Max, Emma, and Anna 'Mina') in Castleton, Richmond County (Staten Island), NY.  The subjects of his paintings were primarily depictions of  the environs of New York City, Staten Island (a very common subject of his paintings during his early career), and Long Island.  His works are often tonalist in quality, with rich, warm hues dominating his paintings.  His first known major exhibition submission was to the National Academy of Design in 1882 when he was just twenty-one years old.

Kost studied in New York City at the Cooper Union Art School and at the National Academy with George Inness Senior (1825-1894) and William Starbuck Macy (1853-1945).  He also traveled to both Munich and Paris beginning in 1884 to study there at the major art academies.  Though he focused his work in the northeast, he is known to have traveled to the state of Florida to paint during the years 1900 and 1901.  One his earliest art memberships was with the Society of American Artists, which Kost appears to have joined around 1889 following his return from Europe.  In 1900 Kost was elected A.N.A. of the National Academy which was followed a few years later, in 1906, by full N.A. membership.

When famous art collector William T. Evans brought a suit against William Clausen and Clausen Galleries in 1910 over the sale of possibly fake Homer Dodge Martin and George Inness paintings, Frederick Kost testified for him against Clausen.  As a former student of Inness he was keenly aware of the growing interested in faking both his and Martin's works.  When Clausen was acquitted, Kost and other artists who testified against him came under some unfortunate criticism.  Also that year Kost was elected to the managing board of the National Academy.

Kost exhibited widely, and there are doubtless more exhibitions yet unknown that could be added to the following list of known exhibitions in which he participated during his lifetime:  National Academy of Design, NY, NY, 1882-1900; Brooklyn Art Association, Brooklyn, NY, 1884, 1886, 1891, 1911; Boston Art Club, Boston, MA, 1885-87, 1896-97; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, 1888-1890; New York Athletic Club, NY, NY, 1891; Knoedler (Goupil's) Gallery, NY, NY, 1891, 1902; Union League Club, NY, NY, 1891, 1911, 1923; Brooklyn Art Club, Brooklyn, NY, 1891, 1893; Society of American Artists, NY, NY, 1894, 1896; Fifth Avenue Art Galleries, NY, NY (ex & sale), 1896; Union League Club of Brooklyn, NY, 1899-1900; Society of Landscape Painters, NY, NY, 1899-1901; Lotos Club, NY, NY, 1899; Sherk Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, 1899-1901; William T. Evans sale, NY, NY (ex & sale), 1900; Salmagundi Club, NY, NY, 1900-1903; Paris International Exhibition, Paris, France (honorable mention), 1900; Pan American Exposition, Buffalo, NY, (bronze medal), 1901; Society of American Artists, NY, NY, 1901-1902; Charleston Exposition, Charleston, SC, 1901; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA,1902; Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA, 1902; American Art Galleries, NY, NY (ex & sale), 1903; Waldorf Art Galleries, NY, NY, 1903; Society of Landscape Painters, NY, NY, 1903; Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis, MO (silver medal), 1904; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 1908; Brooklyn Art Association, Brooklyn, NY, 1911; Milch Galleries, NY, NY (Solo - 50 paintings), 1915; Memorial Exhibition, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY, 1924.

Though Kost visited and worked on Long Island beginning around 1892, he did not acquire a permanent residence there until 1906.  He came to the hamlet of Brookhaven, Long Island that year where he purchased a piece of land from George Barteau located on Beaver Dam Road.  Kost had also acquired the former Deacon Daniel Hawkins House, which was located nearby.  He moved the house to his new property in October and set about renovating it for occupancy.  According to one source, Kost was "said to have made many beautiful alterations to the interior."  While living in Brookhaven, Kost joined the Brookhaven Improvement Association (presently named the Brookhaven Village Association) and served multiple terms as its president.  His house on Beaver Dam Road was used primarily as a summer residence until 1920 when Kost moved into the home full-time.

After acquiring his new home, Kost went about photographing the nearby landscapes with some vigor.  He produced a number of glass-plate negatives showing views in and about Brookhaven hamlet.  One subject he shot many times was the process of collecting salt-hay.  On several occasions he reproduced these scenes in his paintings of the area.  The Post-Morrow Foundation of Brookhaven, whose purpose is "to preserve and conserve the rural, cultural and historical character of the hamlet of Brookhaven and surrounding areas in Suffolk County, New York," owns several paintings by Kost, which are housed in Morrow House, their headquarters.

Recent discoveries indicate Kost may have visited and painted on the North Fork of Long Island.  A painting entitled On the Road to Mattituck, Long Island was found listed in an old exhibition pamphlet.  Mattituck is a small village located on the North Fork, between the hamlets of Laurel and Cutchogue.  Though this painting has never resurfaced, it seems a clear indication of Kost's travel to even the most isolated areas of eastern Long Island.

Frederick William Kost died at his home in Brookhaven, Long Island, on Friday,  February 23, 1923 at the age of sixty-two years.  Though his interment location is currently unknown, he may have been brought back to Staten Island for burial.  His only known major student was the painter Charles Sydney Hopkinson (1869-1962).  At the time the Brooklyn Museum held its memorial exhibition of his works in 1924, the New York Times rightly noted that Kost was " . . . impassioned in his love for the region he portrayed."

Frederick Kost's sister, Anna "Minna" Kost (1864-1951), lived in Brookhaven with her brother from a very early date.  She survived him and served as executrix of his estate.  Anna lived in Brookhaven until the 1940's when she moved back to Staten Island where she died in 1951.  She donated an important painting by Frederick Carl Frieske (which may have originally belonged to her brother) to the Brooklyn Museum.

A number of public institutions hold Kost's works, including:  The Brooklyn Institute Museum, Brooklyn, NY; Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ; New York Historical Society, New York, NY;  Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA; and the Post-Morrow Foundation, Brookhaven, NY.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:


When Kost was born in New York City on 15 May 1861, President Lincoln was assisting supporters of the Union in Kentucky and two days later, the Union forces attacked Confederates at Sewall's Point, Virginia.  Kost became a student of George Inness and William S. Macy, a painter of the Duveneck-Chase tradition, at the National Academy of Design.  Kost would begin to exhibit his works there in 1882.  Macy influenced Kost to study in Munich where he arrived two years later (Weimer, 1940). Macy probably also facilitated Kost's membership in the Society of American Artists since the former participated in the group's first exhibition in 1878.  Kost was active at the SAA beginning in 1889, around the time he moved to Manhattan from Staten Island.  His works are rare: the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts has On St. John's River, New Brunswick, ca. 1893. 

Later in 1900, when Kost became an Associate of the National Academy, he won an Honorable Mention at the Paris Universal Exposition for On Vanderbilt Dock (unlocated).  Only a year later, Kost won a bronze medal at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo where four of his paintings were on display. Charles Caffin felt the artist showed "a deep comprehension" of his subjects.  In 1904, Kost stopped exhibiting at the NAD but at the St. Louis Universal Exposition he won a silver medal.  The Ford at East Quogue, Long Island, exhibited there, indicates Kost was painting not far from Chase's territory.  In fact, Kost moved to Long Island in 1900 and bought a home at Brookhaven.  Gathering Salt Hay, in a private collection, was painted in the Great South Bay.  In Kost's subtle, Whistlerian oil painting, which features the light outlining of forms in black, we see the method of harvesting hay, which was "shipped to markets . . . and sold as packing material, fodder and bedding for cattle, and mulch for crops." (Pisano, 1985, p. 132).  Kost died in New York City on 23 February 1923.

Caffin, Charles H., American Masters of Painting. New York: Doubleday, Page and Co., 1902; Weimer, Aloysius, "The Munich Period in American Painting," Diss., University of Michigan, 1940, p. 495; Pisano, Ronald G., The Long Island Landscape 1865-1914. The Halcyon Years. Exh. cat. Southampton, NY: The Parrish Art Museum, 1981; Idem, Long Island Landscape Painting 1820-1920. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1985, pp. 132, 135.

Submitted by Richard H. Love and Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D.

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