DescriptionThe Hon. Paul H. Buchanan, Jr. Collection
GEORGE INNESS (American, 1825-1894)
Near Leeds, New York, 1869
Oil on canvas
20 x 30 inches (50.8 x 76.2 cm)
Signed and dated lower right: G. Inness 1869
Sotheby's, New York, December 8, 1983, lot 65;
Purchased from David Findlay Jr. Gallery, New York, June 22, 1987 (label verso);
Richard York Gallery, New York (label verso).
"George Inness, 1825-1894," David Findlay Jr. Gallery, New York, 1984.
Antiques, April 1985, ill. p. 826;
On the Spot: American Paintings, 1865-1930, David Findlay Jr. Gallery, New York, 1985, no. 2;
M. Quick, George Inness: A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1 of 2, New Brunswick, New Jersey, pp. 315-16, ill. no 361;
M. Berardi, "Judge of Beauty," Heritage Magazine, Spring 2009, p. 30, ill. as pull-out poster pp. 34-35.
Paul Buchanan's taste in art ran to the beautiful aspects of nature - and human nature - rather than to the grotesque or haunting or emotionally unsettling. This focus can be seen in one of the most important works in his collection, this fully-realized middle-period Catskill landscape by George Inness. Entitled Near Leeds, New York, it depicts a view in the southern Catskills looking east towards the Hudson River, which is just discernable in the distance. The verdant scene is calm and the space is beautifully constructed. A woman and her child sit on a log in the right foreground, watching a horse-drawn cart descend along a road, which carves through the heart of the composition and takes the viewer's imagination along the same path. The greatest force in the painting is the light streaming through the gate on the right, and filtering through the delicate screen of trees.
In his meticulously researched catalogue raisonné on the artist, Dr. Michael Quick awarded a half-page illustration to the Buchanan Inness, and commented in recent correspondence with Heritage that "Near Leeds, N.Y. is a handsome painting that I greatly admire as one of the best of its period." Quick notes that a combination of factors including the elaborate figural elements, the full modeling of the foliage on the left, and the fully developed composition containing contrasting sections and numerous individual areas of incident and interest are characteristic of Inness' work from the late 1860s. He also remarks that "Traces of the Eagleswood technique are still found in this highly detailed painting, in the red neutralizing the green in the foliage along the road on the left."
Inness would have produced this work near the end of his six-year residence in Eagleswood, New Jersey, a rural community which afforded him the opportunity to explore pastoral subject matter. Themes of farmers working the land in harmony with nature first attracted him during studies in Europe during the 1850s, when he was inspired by Barbizon painters such as Daubigny and Corot. At Eagleswood, Inness was introduced to the theosophical teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), which meshed with a need he had always felt, i.e., to show more human interaction with nature, not simply God's manifestation in Nature as sublime grandiosity. Inness was deeply attracted to Swedenborg's ideas in the symbiotic unity of God, Nature and Man, and this "faith" found expression in his landscapes. He explained that he wanted to paint "civilized" landscapes that showed both God's and man's hand working in tandem. In the present work, the tended fields and roads and the little dwellings in the distance are the work of men and women, situated peacefully within the unmanicured forests, underbrush, and the navigable river in the distance.
In 1870, the year after he painted this scene, Inness returned to Europe, settling in Rome where his style became broader, his paint more textural, and his landscapes less representational. In many ways, this work can be regarded, with qualification, as the summation of his middle style before his third and last European sojourn.
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