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 Frederic Whitaker  (1891 - 1980)

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Lived/Active: New York/California/Rhode Island      Known for: landscape, figure and genre painting

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Ad Code: 3
Frederic Whitaker
from Auction House Records.
Birds of a Feather
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Jan Jennings, Art Director/Writer of The Frederic Whitaker and Eileen Monaghan Whitaker Foundation, San Diego, CA.


Frederic Whitaker (1891-1980) won more than 150 awards for his representational watercolors. He was an Academician in the National Academy of Design*.  He served as president of the American Watercolor Society* from 1949-1956, revamping its format to involve more member participation and upgrading the status of annual exhibitions.  In 1943, he organized Audubon Artists*, Inc., an art society designed to represent all voices in the visual arts.  He served as officer/board member of numerous other national and regional art societies and was listed in a number of 'Who's Whos'.

In addition to his painting and leadership contributions in the visual arts, Whitaker wrote two books on watercolor, Whitaker on Watercolor and A Guide to Painting Better Pictures, and a third, The Artist and the Real World, random reflections on the art world.  He is the subject of a biography, Frederic Whitaker, by artist/author Janice Lovoos.  He wrote more than 90 articles on artists for American Artist magazine, and was a contributor to The Artist of London and Today's Art, New York.

Whitaker's watercolors are meticulously designed on a small scale, where he would "think" his way through each detail.  When pleased with the overall design, he transferred it to the full sheet, confident in exactly what he wanted to do. Ideas for his paintings came from things/people/circumstances he observed, usually picking out the "unusual." Whitaker often found beauty in architectural scenes, but he handled every challenge: the human figure, landscapes, seascapes, city scenes, country scenes, night scenes, details of trees, whimsical dolls, and variations of doorway or archway depictions.

Frederic Whitaker was born in Providence, R.I., Jan. 9, 1891, and quit school at age 14 to go to work. What he missed in formal schooling, he picked up on the job at the W. J. Feeley Co., manufacturer of ecclesiastical metalware, where he started as an apprentice to the designer at age 16. By age 23, Whitaker was head of design at Feeley. After that came work as a designer at Gorham, Tiffany, the Mangan Company, which he co-owned, and finally two companies he bought and built up, Foley and Dugan in Providence and the G. H. Seffert Company in New York, both dealing in phases of design, manufacture, and distribution of religious goods. He juggled skills as salesman and designer, as adept in the business end as in the creative side meanwhile painting watercolors, actively participating in art societies, and entering competitive exhibitions.

On Valentines Day, 1943, artist Frederic Whitaker met artist Eileen Monaghan, who was to become Eileen Monaghan Whitaker, at a one-man exhibit of his work at Ferargil Galleries in New York City.  In 1949, Whitaker retired from business to devote himself to painting, writing, and serving in varying leadership capacities for art societies. In 1965, the Whitakers moved to La Jolla, Calif. He died in his home March 9, 1980.

Businessman, entrepreneur, artist, self-made man, Frederic Whitaker rose, as his 1974 Horatio Alger Award states, from humble beginnings to make a significant contribution to society.


Magazine: Watercolor: An American Artist Publication
Spring 2004
"Preserving the Past, Insuring the Future"
M. Stephan Doherty

Magazine: American Artist
Year: 1944
Month: n/a
Article Title: "The Watercolors of Frederic Whitaker"
Author: The Editors
Color Illustrations: Yes

Magazine: The Artist (London)
Year: 1959
Month: March
Article Title: "Artist of Note: Frederic Whitaker"
Author: Boylan Fitz-Gerald
Color Illustrations: Yes

Magazine: Southwest Art
Year: 1975
Month: July-August
Article Title: "Frederic Whitaker: A No-nonsense Man"
Author: Jan Jennings
Color Illustrations: Yes

Magazine: Applause, San Diego Magazine of the Arts
Year: 1976
Month: February
Article Title: "Frederic Whitaker: Watercolorist"
Author: David Thompson
Color Illustrations: Yes

Magazine: American Artist
Year: 1977
Month: August
Article Title: "Frederic Whitaker: Mister Watercolor"
Author: Jan Jennings
Color Illustrations: Yes

Magazine: Watercolor '91, an American Artist publication
Year: 1991
Month: Fall Issue
Article Title: "Frederic Whitaker: Mr. Watercolor"
Author: Diane Casella Hines
Color Illustrations: Yes

*For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from California Watercolor:
Frederic Whitaker, N.A. (1891-1980) Born: Providence, RI; Studied: Rhode Island School of Design; Member: National Academy of Design, American Water Color Society, Audobon Artists, Providence Watercolor Society, Royal Watercolor Sociaty (London).

Frederic Whitaker grew up on the East Coast. In the 1920s and 1930s, he was a successful silversmith having worked for several well-known companies including Tiffany.  In the 1940s, he began exhibiting watercolors. By the late 1950s, he was a nationally recognized watercolorist and a member of over thirty art organizations.

He served as president of the American Watercolor Society, vice president of the National Academy of Design, and was "Mr. Watercolor".  Whitaker wrote two books on watercolor painting, wrote eighty-five articles on art for magazines, and also contributed sections on watercolor painting to nine publications.  He and his artist-wife Eileen, became California residents in the early 1960s.

Biographical information:
Interview with Eileen Monaghan Whitaker, 1985.

Biography courtesy of California Watercolors 1850-1970,
©2002 Hillcrest Press, Inc.

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