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George Inness
"A Cloudy Day," View of Montclair, New Jersey, Tonalist, Barbizon Scene

1886

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George Inness (1825 - 1894) A Cloudy Day, 1886 Oil on canvas 25 x 30 inches Signed and dated lower center Provenance: The artist Estate of the above Fifth Avenue Galleries, New York, Executor's Sale of Paintings by the Late George Inness, N.A., February 12 - 14, 1895, Lot 132 Joseph H. Spafford, acquired from the above Mrs. Spafford, by bequest from the above Leroy Ireland, New York, 1951 Ernest Closuit, Fort Worth, Texas Meredith Long & Company, Houston, Texas, circa 1960 Private Collection Shannon's Fine Art, American and European Fine Art Auction, October 27, 2016, Lot 42 Exhibited: New York, American Fine Arts Society, Exhibition of the Paintings Left by the Late George Inness, December 27, 1894, no. 90.  Literature: LeRoy Ireland, The Works of George Inness: An Illustrated Catalogue Raisonne, Austin, Texas, 1965, p. 336, no. 1324, illustrated. Michael Quick, "George Inness: A Catalogue Raisonne," Vol. II, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 2007, pp. 282-83, 311, no. 966, illustrated.  George Inness, one of America's foremost landscape painters of the late nineteenth century, was born in 1825 near Newburgh, New York. He spent most of his childhood in Newark, New Jersey. He was apprenticed to an engraving firm until 1843, when he studied art in New York with Regis Gignoux, a landscape painter from whom he learned the classical styles and techniques of the Old Masters. In 1851, sponsored by a patron, Inness made a fifteen-month trip to Italy. In 1853 he traveled to France, where he discovered Barbizon landscape painting, leading him to adopt a style that used looser, sketchier brushwork and more open compositions, emphasizing the expressive qualities of nature. After working in New York from 1854 to 1859, he moved to Medfield, Massachusetts, and four years later to New Jersey, where through a fellow painter he began to experiment with using glazes that would allow him to fill his compositions with subtle effects of light. Duncan Phillips remarked on Inness’s mellow light as a unifying force, saying, “…he was equipped to modernize the grand manner of Claude and to apply the methods of Barbizon to American subjects." At this time also, Inness developed an interest in the religious theories of Emanuel Swedenborg, an 18th century theologian who believed that all material things were imbued with spiritual presence and who proposed a philosophy in which earthly and heavenly realms are united. Inness's paintings throughout the decade of the 1860s showed sweeping, panoramic views of the Catskills, the Delaware Valley, or the New Jersey countryside. Despite their varying locales, these scenes share a spiritual expressiveness in the portrayal of nature’s moods, for example, dramatic effects of weather and atmosphere. In Inness’s mature paintings, the forms of the landscape become indistinct, hazy, abstracted, suggesting an existence in both material and immaterial worlds. Inness moved back to New York in 1867 and in 1868 was elected to full membership in the National Academy of Design, but being an inveterate traveler, he returned to Europe in 1870, living in Rome from 1871 to 1875. Two years later he returned to New York, where he helped found the Society of American Artists. In 1878 he settled in Montclair, New Jersey, but continued to travel and paint misty, poetic, and evocative landscapes. Over the years he went to a variety of locations in the eastern and southern United States, and to Cuba, California, and Mexico. After 1880, his late synthetic landscapes were purely conceptual, made in a studio practice that relied on memory of actual places but was fundamentally an embodiment in paint of the artist’s deepest feelings. With these dematerialized landscapes, attuned to the Transcendentalists, Inness pioneered an essentially conceptualist art, one that would find echoes in the works of the Abstract Expressionists and Color Field painters of the 20th century. In 1894, Inness made his last trip abroad, visiting France, Germany, and Scotland, where he died. A public funeral was held in New York at the National Academy, which also held a large exhibition of his paintings that same year.

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