Frederick Carl Frieseke, the son of the owner of a brick factory, was born in Owosso, Michigan on 7 April 1874. In 1881, after the death of his mother, the family moved to Florida, and it was not until around 1892 that Frieseke returned to Michigan. He studied periodically at the Art Institute of Chicago until 1896, receiving instruction from both John Vanderpoel and Frederick Warren Freer, and at the Art Students League in New York from 1896-1897.
In 1898, Frieseke journeyed to France where he remained, except for brief visits to the United States, for the rest of his life. He studied at the Académie Julian with Jean-Joseph Benjamin Constant and Jean-Paul Laurens. While in Paris, Frieseke came under the influence of Whistler, although he may have studied no more than a week with him at the Académie Carmen. Rodman Wanamaker became his patron, and Frieseke painted mural decorations which were installed in Wanamaker's New York department store in 1904. In 1906 the murals he painted for the Shelbourne Hotel, Atlantic City, NJ, were put in place.

Around 1900 Frieseke began to summer in Giverny, spending his winters in Paris; in 1906 he rented a house adjacent to Monet's home. By 1901 he began exhibiting at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. He won the Silver Medal at the St. Louis Universal Exposition and the Gold Medal at the International Art Exposition in Munich in 1904; that year the Musée de Luxembourg in Paris purchased Before the Mirror. Seventeen of Frieseke's paintings were shown at the Venice Biennale in 1909.

In 1910 Frieseke exhibited with the Giverny Group at the Madison Art Gallery, New York; two years later he was given the first of his numerous one-man exhibitions at the Macbeth Gallery. Frieseke became an associate of the National Academy of Design in 1912 and was elected an academician in 1914. The artist travelled to Corsica in 1913, where he made plein air studies, but he vowed never to return because of the constant winds. He was awarded the Temple Gold Medal by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and in 1915 won the Grand Prize at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. In 1920 he was made Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour. Frieseke moved to Le Mesnil-sur-Blangy, Normandy in 1922, and although he contemplated returning permanently to his homeland, he died at his farmhouse in Normandy on 28 August 1939.

Kenneth W. Maddox