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    GEORGE INNESS (American 1825 - 1894)
    Approaching Storm, circa 1868
    Oil on canvas
    12-½ x 16in.
    Signed and indistinctly dated at lower right, G Inness 18[?]8

    Sale Shannon's Fine Art Auction, Greenwich, Connecticut, October 21, 2004, lot 63, sold for $58,750;
    Private Collection

    Michael Quick, George Inness: A Catalogue Raisonné, 2006 (forthcoming).

    In 1868, around the same time he produced this view of a storm brewing over farmland near his home in Eagleswood, New Jersey, George Inness was elected a full member of the National Academy of Design in New York. His acceptance into this most august society of professional painters was comparatively a long time in coming since his approach to landscape painting differed so sharply from that of most Americans of the time. 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. Like the present work, Inness's landscapes are tonal and often very thinly painted. Sometimes there doesn't even seem to be a subject beyond a general indication of green on the ground and blue, white or gray in the zone usually reserved for the sky. One contemporary writer noted that Inness's work was "more of a painting than a picture," and indeed, the description is perfectly accurate. It is also a perfect description for a work of modern art.

    When he was awarded the status of full academician by the National Academy of Design, Inness had not altered his way of painting to win acceptance. Rather, the academy had changed and so had American taste. America had just gone through a bloody Civil War, and somehow the tenor of the country had shifted. With it came a new, more introspective way of looking at oneself and one's relation to the world. Inness and his quieter, more contemplative pictures became understandable, and by the time of his death near the end of the century Inness, a small, frail, epileptic, quarrelsome, and tenaciously uncompromising man who, interestingly, was an inspiring teacher, had replaced Church as America's "greatest" painter. The fact that Inness had developed his personal style by looking to European art to the Old Masters, to the Roman campagna, and in particular to the modern experiments of the French Barbizon School painters such as Rousseau, Corot, Daubigny, and Millet who worked outside in a brushy hazy manner that was no longer objectionable, or un-American.

    This present work dates from the 1860s, the decade immediately following the artist's trips to Italy and France in the 1850s which profoundly impacted the future direction of his work. In the early 1860s, Inness lived in rural Medfield, Massachusetts, where he painted farm scenes very similar to the present work, which strongly resembles 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, where the present work was painted, 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 the little dwellings in the distance are the work of men and women. The threatening storm in the "heavenly" realm overhead, however, might bring damage in addition to much needed rain. As Michael Quick noted of a related work of the same title painted in 1869 (Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick R. Mayer, Denver), "Its bent trees belong not to wild forests, but to the cultivated and cared-for world, the pastoral ideal... In Approaching Storm one still feels the controlled grandeur of nature, which the painting's rich coloration renders as more alluring than terrifying" (Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr. and Michael Quick, George Inness, exh. cat., Los Angeles and New York, 1985, pp. 104-5, cat. 14).

    The rich coloration is also found in the present work, and as one writer explained, Inness's way of achieving these affects was far more elaborate than one would suspect. "He swiftly stained the surfaces of his canvases, and then sketched on them with charcoal and umber, a process that sometimes took more than a week. He used opaque paint to bring out light and texture and then used glaze to tone it down. The overall result was a type of landscape that combined tonalism and luminism, great contrasts of light and dark."

    Condition Report*: Condition report available upon request.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2006
    9th-10th Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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