GEORGE INNESS 
American (1825-1894) 
Midsummer 
oil on
canvas, signed "Geo. Inness" and dated "1862" lower right. 
14 x 20 inches

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Inness’ was a highly prolific artist during his long career. For fifty years from 1844-1894 he exhibited at the National Academy of Design. Although associated with the Hudson River School and the group of Tonalists, Inness changed his styles throughout his career, keeping up with leading artistic trends. He said of himself, “I have changed from the time I commenced because I had never completed my art and as I do not care about being cake, I shall remain dough subject to any impression which I am satisfied comes from the region of truth.” (1)

 

He readily experimented with new styles and embraced new trends, visible in each era of his work. Throughout, he infused his paintings with a sense of philosophical and spiritual qualities that set him apart. Inness’ paintings from the 1860s reflect an interest in the religious theories of Emanuel Swedenborg, who believed that all material things were imbued with a spiritual presence. It was also at this time in the late 50s and early 60s that Inness’ work most resembled that of the Hudson River School artists.

 

During this period, and as seen in the present lot, Inness’ focused on the effects of light on the landscape. He was less concerned with accurate details, and during this period his technique softened and his brushstrokes were much broader. As Michael Quick notes in his catalog, “The painting of foliage is bold, without being conspicuously so. The greatest amount of detail is in the near distance. Although the greens are quite deep, an effect of summer heat is achieved through the use of red in the shadow under the bridge and in the water, as well as in shadows under bushes and trees. Dark red appears to have been painted under the green of the middle-ground and distant trees. Careful attention was given to the silhouettes of the large trees, mostly by painting light sky into the foliage and then dragging some foliage over the sky.”(2)

 

Inness was born near Newburgh, New York in 1825. He spent most of his childhood in Newark, New Jersey. After an apprenticeship working for an engraver, Inness studied at the National Academy of Design from 1843-1847 with Regis Francois Gignoux (see lot 48). In 1851, he made a fifteen month trip to Italy (see lot 82), and then a shorter visit in France. He returned to America moving to New York from 1854-1859. He then moved briefly to Massachusetts and back to New Jersey before finally returning to New York in 1867.

 

In 1868, Inness was elected a full member of the National Academy. He returned to Italy for another sojourn from 1871-1875 and continued to travel up until his death in Scotland in 1894. A pubic funeral was held in New York at the National Academy as was an exhibition of his paintings.  

 

(1) Quick, “George Inness: A Catalogue Raisonne,” (New Jersey: Rutgers University, 2007), p. 1.

(2) Quick, p. 221.

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