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George Inness (American, 1825-1894)


Also known as:  Innes, George; Inness, George, Jr.; Inness, Georges, Jr.

Birth Place: Newburgh (Orange county, New York state, United States)

During the 1850s, the Tonalist painter George Inness lived in rural Medfield, Massachusetts, where he painted farm scenes which strongly resemble images of the French countryside as interpreted by Corot or Daubigny. In 1864, Inness moved to Eagleswood, New Jersey, once again a rural community which afforded him the opportunity to explore pastoral subject matter. At Eagleswood, Inness was introduced to the theosophical teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), which emphasized the symbiotic unity of God, Nature and Man. In fact, Inness's approach was virtually antithetical to the work of the painters known collectively as the Hudson River School: Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, Thomas Moran and others who portrayed nature as a dramatic, grandiose subject on a monumental scale with a microscopic attention to detail. In comparison, Inness's small blurry paintings seemed to be more about atmosphere, weather conditions, and shadows that obscure form and highlights that dissolve it.

In 1870 Inness returned to Italy to paint the countryside for the American market and on this occasion stayed for four years. The mid-career Italian paintings he produced during this extended trip offer more daring color effects and pictorial compositions than his earlier landscapes. The tighter landscapes give way to a broader handling that evokes a greater sense of atmosphere and light, and a much more subjective response to nature. After his tenure in Italy, Inness spent much of 1874 in Paris, summering in nearby Normandy. His French-period paintings are characterized by a greater focus on geometric structure, in particular, silhouetted foreground masses, such as meadows or rivers. While in France, Inness also adopted a more expressive brushstroke and a more vibrant palette, stylistic changes he would continue to develop in his next series, the landscapes of Conway, New Hampshire.

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