George Inness (American, 1825-1894)


George Inness (American, 1825-1894)

Sunset ( 1882 )

Oil on Canvas, Signed (l.l.) "G. Inness 1882"

15 3/4" x 21 3/4"


George Inness, one of the most prominent figures in American art of the 19th century, is best-known today for his poetic and highly expressive approach to landscape painting. He was born in Newburgh, New York, in 1825, the son of a local grocer. While still a youth, he decided to pursue a career as an artist. He initiated his studies during the 1840s, working briefly under John Jesse Barker in Newark, New Jersey. At some point between 1843 and 1845 he was taught by the French-born landscapist, Regis Gignoux, in New York City. During this period, he also spent two years as an apprentice engraver with the New York firm of Sherman and Smith.

George Inness began exhibiting his pictures at the National Academy of Design in 1844. His early work, in its emphasis on detail and topographical accuracy, reveals the influence of the prevailing Hudson River School aesthetic as exemplified by such painters as Asher B. Durand. However after making trips to Italy (1851-52) and France (1853-54), he became deeply influenced by the serene, broadly-painted landscapes of Rousseau, Troyen, Daubigny and other members of the French Barbizon School.

In 1860, for reasons of health as well as discouragement with what he felt to be a lack of recognition from local critics and patrons, Inness moved with his family to Medfield, Massachusetts. He remained there for four years and then settled at Eagleswood, an estate near Perth Amboy, New Jersey. It was around this time that he met the painter William Page, who introduced him to the spiritual teachings of the Swedish philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg. Throughout the 1860s, George Inness gradually began to abandon many of the precepts associated with the Hudson River style, turning instead to a greater emphasis on mood and poetic effect through the use of rich color and fluid brushwork. One of his major points of divergence involved his vision or concept of the American landscape itself; while the Hudson River painters focused on the untamed wilderness, Inness was drawn to what he once described as the "civilized landscape," where nature was shaped to suit the needs of mankind, a combination of both the real and the ideal.

In 1870, George Inness made another trip to Europe, spending most of his time in Rome. Returning to the United States four years later, he spent a year in Boston before moving back to New York in 1875. In 1878, he bought a home and studio in Montclair, New Jersey, where he would live for the rest of his life. During that same year, he helped to found the Society of American Artists, a group of younger, European influenced artists dissatisfied with the conservative, insular attitude prevailing at the National Academy. In 1882, Inness's work was the subject of a major article by the New York critic Charles De Kay in Century Magazine. Two years later, a comprehensive exhibition of his pictures at the American Art Galleries helped further to strengthen his growing reputation.

Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, George Inness's art moved towards a greater level of individual expression. He continued to explore various aspects of both style and theory, always turning to color for its emotive potential. He also began to incorporate one, sometimes, two figures into his compositions, evident in such works as The Monk (Addison Gallery of American Art) of 1873.

Inness produced his most original and his most visionary work during the last decade of his life. In paintings such as Sunrise (Metropolitan Museum of Art), he explored mood and feeling through color, diffused light and a limited number of softly defined forms. Many of his pictures from this period are depictions of forest interiors at dawn or twilight. Although the hazy atmospheric qualities and ethereal nature of Inness's late work has led to comparisons with Impressionism (a movement which did inform his work to some extent), his concept of nature--spiritual, subjective (and thus very modern) -- took him well beyond Impressionism's material and scientific concerns. Indeed, in his emphasis on emotion, his free handling of pigment and in his quiet, harmonious compositions, he was tremendously influential for a younger generation of painters, such as Henry Ward Ranger and Dwight Tryon, whose related aesthetic concerns have since been defined as Tonalism.

During his later years, George Inness painted in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut as well as in California and Florida. He traveled to Europe in 1894, visiting Paris, Munich, and Baden. He died in Bridge-of-Allan in Scotland that same year. A prolific artist, Inness is represented in America's most important collections, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and at the Art Institute of Chicago.

MUSEUMS: 108 ( partial List )

Montclair Art Museum

Addison Gallery of American Art

Arizona State University Art Museum

Art Center in Hargate Street

Art Institute of Chicago

Bowers Museum

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Butler Institute of American Art

Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh/Carnegie Institute

Charles Allis Art Museum

Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art

Chrysler Museum of Art

Cincinnati Art Museum

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

Dallas Museum of Art

Davis Museum

De Young Museum

Delaware Art Museum

Denver Art Museum

El Paso Museum of Art

Everson Museum Of Art

Figge Art Museum/Davenport Art Museum

Florence Museum

Fogg Art Museum: Harvard University Art Museums

Frederick R Weisman Art Museum

George Walter Vincent Smith Museum

Gilcrease Museum

Heckscher Museum of Art

Herbert F Johnson Museum of Art

High Museum of Art

Honolulu Museum of Art

Indianapolis Museum of Art

Lauren Rogers Museum of Art

Locust Grove, The Samuel Morse Historic Site

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Lowe Art Museum

Maier Museum of Art

Mead Art Museum

Memorial Art Gallery

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Mount Holyoke College Art Museum

Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum of Fine Arts-St. Petersburg

National Academy of Design Museum

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

New Jersey State Museum

New Orleans Museum of Art

New-York Historical Society

North Carolina Museum of Art

Oakland Museum of California

Oklahoma City Museum of Art

Orlando Museum of Art

Paine Art Center

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Phoenix Art Museum

Portland Art Museum, Oregon

Print Club of Albany

R W Norton Art Gallery

Reading Public Museum

Reynolda House-Museum of American Art

Rhode Island School of Design-Museum of Art

Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College

Saint Louis Art Museum

San Diego Museum of Art

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Sewell C Biggs Museum of American Art

Sheldon Museum of Art

Smith College Museum of Art

Springfield Museum of Art

Stark Museum of Art

Swope Art Museum

The Arkell Museum at Canajoharie

The Brooklyn Museum of Art

The Cleveland Museum of Art

The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia

The Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio

The Cummer Museum Of Art & Gardens

The Haggin Museum

The Hudson River Museum

The Huntington Library & Gallery

The Museum Of Arts And Sciences

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Newark Museum

The Philbrook Museum of Art

The Phillips Collection

The Speed Art Museum

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

The Toledo Museum of Art

The University of Arizona Museum of Art

The University of Michigan Museum of Art

The White House Permanent Collection

Thyssen-Bonemisza Collection

Timken Museum of Art

Union League Club of Chicago

University of Wyoming Art Museum

USC Fisher Gallery

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

Walters Art Museum

Washington County Museum of Fine Arts

Whitney Museum of American Art

Williams College Museum of Art

Yale University Art Gallery

Zigler Museum