Catalog Essay | October 24, 2019 | Lot 74
In 1972, Brevoort was the subject of a retrospective exhibition and accompanying catalogue raisonne of his works published by the Hudson River Museum. In the introduction to the catalogue, scholar Sutherland McColley notes:
Brevoort came of artistic age just as the High Tide of Hudson River Faith in the grandeur of American landscape was ebbing out. In the 1860s and the 1870s a new generation of nature painters emerged to trace a gentler, more reticent vision of the land for forty years to come, and Brevoort was among them. Of his generation, almost all who painted the American landscape shared, in their work, the quality which a contemporary called ‘a certain noble simplicity, quietude, and sobriety, that one feels grateful for in an age of gilded-eagleism…’”1
Brevoort was born in 1832 in Yonkers, New York. He spent most of his childhood on his father’s farm in Williamsbridge and Fordham. He began drawing at an early age and in the 1850s studied architecture with his cousin, noted archi-tect, James Renwick, designer of the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Grace Church in New York City. In 1854 he received a certificate of architecture from New York University.
During this period, he also began attending the National Academy of Design. He took courses with miniature por-trait artist Thomas Cummings who taught drawing and perspective. From 1856 on, Brevoort exhibited regularly at the Academy. In 1861, he was elected as an Associate Academician and painted landscapes in nearby Connecticut, in the Catskills and on Long Island.
In 1873, newly married after the death of his first wife, Brevoort emptied his studio. He sold 150 of his landscapes and paintings by other artists he had collected including works by Alexander Wyant, William Hart, Jervis McEntee and George Inness. He and his wife departed for Europe later that year, returning to the states in the early 1880s.
His works in the 1860s and early 1870s showed an increased interest in the effects of atmosphere and perspective. In the 1870s, the second-generation of Hudson River School artists were changing their approach to the American landscape. Artists like Brevoort were focusing on atmosphere, haze, reflections and the times of the day, twilight and dawn. Landscapes from this period were restrained and simple, without a narrative or a theme. As Brevoort’s biog-rapher McColley notes; “Brevoort’s work in the 1860s already showed a predisposition for the fleeting forms of land-scape. After the 1870s his work turned progressively towards expressing the mood and transparency of nature.”
Brevoort and his contemporaries, John Frederick Kensett, George Inness, Sanford Gifford, Alexander Wyant and later R. Swain Gifford and J. Alden Weir were interested in the religious and mystical aspects of nature, captured in the new Luminist style of painting.
The present example, a view of Gloucester Bay, exemplifies Brevoort’s skill at capturing fleeting atmospheric effects. He skillfully renders the reflections on the water, the hazy ocean air, the crisp rocks and the bright blue sky. The influ-ence of John F. Kensett is apparent in this fine example of the artist’s work.
In 1873 he painted Gloucester Bay over a dozen times. A large 30 x 48-inch canvas titled Inside Eastern Point, Gloucester Bay, 1871 is currently in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). A favorite sub-ject for the artist, the present canvas is the only view of Gloucester by Brevoort that has come up for auction.
1 Sutherland McColley, The Works of James Renwick Brevoort, 1832-1918, American Landscape Painter, Yonkers, New York: The
Hudson River Museum, 1972, p. ix.