Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Inness in Medfield and the Barbizon school and the Hudson river school contrasted.

Inness lived in and visited many places. In 1860 Inness moved from New York to Medfield Massachusetts. Medfield was then a quiet rural village surrounded by open fields, woodlands, and rolling hills. It is of course now a part of the grsater Boston sprawl and irt is now very proud to list in its town website that Charles Innes (sic) once lived there. It is always amazing to me how foreign art is to most people, even supposedly educated people.No one who proofread this text or evidently anyone else in the greater Medfield pantheon of civic officers knew either Inness's first name or the correct spelling of his last name. Curt Schilling lives there today, they got his name right of course.

Prior to this time Inness made some great paintings, like the Lackawanna Railroad picture. But his output had been mixed and many of the pictures prior to this time were uneven. But now Inness becomes a mature and confidant artist. The painting above of the broad fields of Medfield
is as fine as anything made by any American painter. That sky is a tour de force, and he has developed his "take"on the Barbizon style. He is now , in my opinion Americas finest landscape painter. His breadth of handling makes the Hudson River school paintings of a generation before seem a little primitive.I absolutely love Hudson River school painting, but I think Inness is, at this point, operating at an artistic level far above any of them. The American art appreciating public of the day agreed, and artists like Bierstadt and Church were rapidly forgotten, and died in obscurity. Upon the death of Albert Bierstadt in 1902 a critic famously remarked "I had no idea he was still alive!"

This is a really great Inness. Again from the Medfield period. All of the detail is now subordinated to the larger shapes and the painting is an arrangement of shapes and colors intended to arouse an emotional response in us. I have been talking so much about Barbizon style paintings that I think I had better show a few. Below is a Theodore Rousseau, not to be confused with the later Henri Rousseau who painted the jungle scenes in a primitive style a generation later. This painting is arranged rather than observed. It is a synthetic landscape not a topographical image. Rousseau did not "paint the day".

Below is a Camille Corot.

Notice the minimal detail in those trees , I think by way of illustration I will throw a Hudson River school painting in here so you can see the difference between the two approaches.

Thats a Bierstadt above, and below is a Church. Look at the difference in the detailed Hudson river school paintings and the simplified broader look of the Inness paintings and the Corot.

images from and


Gregory Becker said...

Hey, for anyone interested...
There is a painter named Dennis Sheehan who lives on the east coast. He is a very talented painter who is heavily influenced by Inness. You can google him or go to youtube and see some of his demonstrations.
They are sure to please.

kev ferrara said...

Stape, this was a great series on Inness. Thank you so much. (And now I'm a fan of corot too!) Inness' compositional techniques are fascinating. Very much like Pyle, the Wyeths, Waterhouse, and Bocklin, but without the scenario/figures. (Some of my favorite stuff in the world.)


Unknown said...

Dennis Sheehan lives in Manchester, I believe. At least that is where his studio is located. I love that first Inness. But then, I like the Bierstadt too.
Nobody will know when I finally kick the bucket either.

"juryne" a long trip

Philip Koch said...

Great series on Inness.

Another painter who's heavily influenced by Inness is Chris Burkholder. I stayed with him some years ago on one of my painting trips to Texas. He does very atmospheric traditional landscape paintings with unorthodox methods. He begins by throwing an acrylic wash soaked natural sponge at a large blank canvas until he's created an overall abstract pattern of blobs and spatters.

Then he sits back and imagines a landscape emerging out of the blobs, and begins to draw this on top of the abstraction. He then turns to his pile (literally a huge pile on the studio floor) of photos he's taken of favorite stands of trees, marshes, ponds, clouds, and uses these as source material. Mentally collaging the ideas together, he comes up with a very creditable traditional landscape, He uses acrylic on rough canvas to achieve a pebble-like surface that from a distance reads as atmospheric.
It would all be impossible but for his appreciation of Inness and 19th century tonalities. Burkholder shows at Harris Gallery in Houston.

Don Thacker said...

I just wanted to say thank you for doing this blog. All this information is wonderful and I like how the format is one that has a new entry each day. I look forward to it every morning. I think your content is among the best I've seen on landscape painting. When you write a book, I'll immediately buy it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I know Dennis he is a fine painter and is very successful.He is a member of the Guild of Boston artists too.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks, we are going to see Inness really arrive tonight.

Stapleton Kearns said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stapleton Kearns said...

Hey there! Welcome back. I am glad to know you are alive and well.

jurnye Rock band that coined the phrase "nanananana,nanananana.nana, nananananana,nanananana,nanananaaaaa,

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks,I do intend to turn this blog into a book, however, to it,I will add a collection of methods given to me alone, by a secret society of sorcero-limners whose origins can be traced back to unatractive protocretins squatting in the guano,and cursing the light,patting mercuric sulphide mixed with rancid Yak butter onto the damp cellar walls of the nitre dripping caves of prehistory.

Don Thacker said...

I've never been too satisfied with the way rancid Yak butter handles as a medium, especially if amalgamated with the antediluvian pigments of troglodytes. However, I was just playing around with it, so I look forward to learning the proper techniques.

Philip Koch said...


I have painted there a whole number of times, both in east Texas around the Houston and out in the Hill Country near San Antonio. Obviously east Texas with its humidity and heavy vegetation felt much more familiar to this east coast artist. Back during the '80's oil boom I was finding a lot of collectors down in that state. I will comment that summer is a terrible time for a New England landscape painter to be anywhere near Texas.

Jan Blencowe said...

Thanks so much for these fabulous posts. Inness is one of my very favorite artists,his later works particularly, resonate deeply with me.

You have a wonderful way of weaving together cultural history, art history, religion, when pertinent as in this case and obscure trivia, like Johnny Appleseed being a Swedenborgian missionary! It's delightful and informative all at the same time!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thankyou very much. Jan is a tweeting diety and can be found at:

Stapleton Kearns said...

Those are nice. I looked at them at Harris Gallery. Where did you paint in Texas? I used to paint there a lot.