Description: John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872) Study on Long Island Sound at Darien, Connnecticut oil on canvas 15.5 x 27.75in. (39.3 x 70.5cm.) Painted in 1872. Provenance: Robert Carlin, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Kennedy Galleries, New York, 1969. Acquired by the present owner from the above. Literature: J.M. Bloomer, "The Hudson River School Exhibition," American Art Review, May-June 1974, p. 115, no. 4. A.Y. Smith, "John Frederick Kensett and the Connecticut Shore, " American Art Review, September-October 2001, pp. 154, 155, 159, no. 5. A.Y. Smith, "John Frederick Kensett and the Connecticut Shore," Antiques and the Arts Weekly, November 2, 2001, p. 68. Exhibited: Shreveport, Louisiana, R.W. Norton Art Gallery, The Hudson River School: American Landscape Paintings from 1821-1907, October 14- November 25, 1973, no. 47. Austin, Texas, Laguna Gloria Art Museum, American Landscape Painting: 1850-1900, September 7-October 17, 1976. Tulsa, Oklahoma, Thomas Gilcrease Institute, Between Friends, July 18-September 19, 1982. New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Realism and Romanticism 19th Century New England Seascapes, September 15-November 29, 1989, no. 11. Waterbury, Connecticut, The Mattatuck Museum, Images of Contentment: John Frederick Kensett and the Connecticut Shore, September 15-November 18, 2001, no. 6. Note: Born into a family of engravers, John Frederick Kensett entered the same trade at an early age. In 1840, however, at the age of twenty four, Kensett left the United States and his career as an accomplished engraver to study art seriously in the academies and museums in Europe. By the time he returned to the United States, after seven years of rigorous study and practice, he "was recognized as a master of landscape." (J.P. Driscoll and J.K. Howatt, John Frederick Kensett An American Master, New York, 1985, p. 35) Interested in the various possibilities for landscape, Kensett went on to develop his own personal style. The changeable qualities of light and atmosphere became central to his work, for he considered them concrete elements of the landscape. More specifically, "he became well known for his ability to endow a scene with his own tranquil, poetic feeling. [He] shifted from the more conventional anecdotal picturesque mode derived from the tradition of Cole and Durand, to the quiet openness, light, and simplification of form, color, and composition that is now recognized as his mature style and associated with the phenomenon of 'luminism.'" (John Frederick Kensett, An American Master, p. 99) During the late 1860s, Kensett purchased property in Connecticut near Darien and Rowayton on Contentment Island and subsequently built a studio there. Inspired by his surroundings, he composed many sketches and paintings from various points around the island. It was during this time that Kensett developed sparer, more open compositions that explored the passages of light and time and the overall mood of place The structure of the composition of Study on Long Island Sound at Darien, Connecticut reflects this late period in the artist's career with a grouping of rocks to one side balanced by a broad, open horizon on the other. By composing the painting in this way, Kensett reduces the scene to its most basic elements and is able to explore his own preoccupation with light and color and effectively comment on nature's sublimity. Discussing Kensett's work from this period at a meeting at the Century Association in honor of the artist, Reverend Samuel Osgood wrote: "These pictures treat very familiar subjects, scenes very near to his own door, and he handles them with great simplicity, and without any flights of fancy or straining after dramatic effects. Here are God's common and abounding gifts--the water, the rocks, the trees, the light, the sky--all rendered with severe truthfulness, yet with exquisite beauty, and delicate and profound expression." (as quoted in J. Simon, Images of Contentment: John Frederick Kensett and the Connecticut Shore, Waterbury, Connecticut, 2001, p. 16) Devoid of human presence, Study on Long Island Sound at Darien, Connnecticut forces the viewer to acknowledge the overwhelming presence of nature. Kensett has composed the scene with a strong diagonal that leads the viewer in from the closest point in the foreground to the farthest distance on the horizon to emphasize nature's great depth and scale. Kensett has formed these basic elements of sea and sky to create a work of delicate beauty and subtle grandeur. This painting will be included in the forthcoming John F. Kensett catalogue raisonn‚ being prepared under the direction of Dr. John Driscoll.
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