Thursday, August 13, 2009

John Fredrick Kensett

John Fredrick Kensett-1816-1872 was one of the second generation of the Hudson river school painters.

Images this page from the artchive found at;

John Kensett another former engraver was a friend of Asher Durand with whom he traveled Europe. He was an aficionado of Dutch painting. Kensett was one of the generation of Hudson River school painters. This generation developed the tight, highly detailed technique that was often highly concerned with the effects of light. Often they sought to convey a spiritualist, or transcendentalist message. Their painting was far more naturalistic than that of Thomas Cole or Asher Durand. Beginnig with Kensett and particularly in his later work, luminism reached its full development.

The painting of Lake George above, shows the new luminist sensibilities. The calm surface of the water, the attention to the atmospheric effect and the spiritualistic stillness of the painting give it a quivering hypereality accentuated by its nearly invisible brushwork.

The painting above was painted in North Conway, New Hampshire. I know this location. It looks up the Intervale valley to Mt. Washington. George Smillie engraved a copy of painting and it was widely distributed making Kensett a famous painter, and filling this valley for a decade afterwards with most of the important landscape painters in America.

As popular as this luminist style of painting was, in another generation the Barbizon style, tonalism, impressionism and then modernism eclipsed it and luminism fell totally out of favor. On one occasion in 1916 a fine Kensett brought six dollars at auction.


Jo-Ann Sanborn said...

The Lake George painting is lovely. I'm sure you are probably aware there are some terrific luminist paintings by Fitz Henry Lane at the Gloucester Historical Society. I think they might have a Martin Johnson Heade or two as well. Worth a visit!

jeff said...

I love Kinsett's work thanks for posting these.

I was watching the Antiques Road show a few weeks ago and this chap brought in two small gems by Kinsett that he purchased at a yard sale. I kid you not, he paid $35 for the pair.

They were appraised at 30 to 50k each.

Philip Koch said...

Kensett could sometimes be just amazing at combining delicate surface textures, palpable atmosphere and, especially late in his career, some remarkable asymmetrical designs. He is a quiet sort of painter, and for that I think sometimes gets overlooked. When I was in grad school he was a real guiding light for me. Thanks for your post Stapleton.
The story about the Kensett selling for almost nothing in that auction makes one wince.

jeff said...

I have a better one.
When I was going to the ASL in New York years ago one of my fellow classmates was walking in the upper east side near the Met. He spotted the corner of what looked like old linen sticking out of a dumpster.

Upon investigating it he found it was indeed a very old painting that had been thrown out. He carefully removed it from the dumpster. He then took it home and dusted it off and noticed that the painting looked like a Pre Raphaelite painting or at least something done in the 19th century. He took it Sotheby's and his hunch was correct.

It went on auction for something in the 30k range. This was in the late 80's so 30k now would be about 60 I think.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Gloucester has so much art. There used to be(and still may be) a Fitz who? Lane behind the card catalog in the Public library.
His house still stands on the waterfront, the only thing not improved out of existence in the urban renewal efforts of the 1960's

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have heard a few of those stories. Still its best not tm wait for a masterpiece in a dumpster and buy art now!

Stapleton Kearns said...


Its amazing how the price of a piece of art can get so divorced from its appearance. Scary.

Stapleton Kearns said...

There is also a story of an A.T. Bricher being found at the dump in Beverly Mass.