March 25, 2012

The Art of George Inness

George Inness (1825 – 1894) was an American painter, famous for his luminous and atmospheric landscapes. He helped defined the Tonalist movement in the late 19th century. Tonalism was an artistic style that began in the 1880s. The name was formed based on a group of American painters who, painted landscape forms with one single color or an overall tone of colored atmosphere or mist.

(Inness, George. Sunset on a Meadow. date unknown. oil on canvas.)

Inness was the fifth of thirteen children born to a farmer and his wife in Newburgh, New York. Five years later his family moved to Newark, New Jersey. As a teenager George studied under the painter, John Jesse Barker and then moved to New York City to work as a map engraver. He attended the National Academy of Design and began to study Asher B. Durand and Thomas Cole from the Hudson River School.

(Inness, George. The Storm. c. 1885. oil on canvas. Reynolda House Museum of American Art)

In 1851, a patron sponsored Inness to travel abroad, study and paint in Europe. During his trip to Paris, he discovered Camille Corot and the French Barbizon School. This group was focused on painting mood and shadow which influenced Inness to explore unique combinations of light and color, especially within specific color relationships. He published an article entitled, “Colours and Le Corresondences” where he described the spiritual significance of specific color combinations.

(Inness, George. Medfield Massachusetts. date unknown. oil on canvas. Private Collection.)

Inness used abstract shapes combined with soft edges to create a mystical experience for the viewer. As time went on his mystical view of nature became intensified. His artistic style is characterized by hazy atmospheres created by a distinctive tonal variety of neutral and saturated color.

(Inness, George. Woodland Scene. date unknown. oil on canvas.)

Inness’ control over spatial relations, scale, drawing and color combined with the idealistic handling of his subjects, allowed him to achieve a sense of relaxed and serene mystery and his work is much appreciated here!

Enjoy! :)