Frederick Whitaker, N.A., Biography

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.