John Frederick Kensett images and biography
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John Frederick Kensett
(1816-1872)

See also: Hudson River School

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"Eulogized by the Honorable George William Curtis of New York as "a man of great gifts, and of the sweetest nature," John Frederick Kensett throughout his nearly forty-year career enjoyed the affection of his fellow artists, the support of collectors, and the enthusiastic approbation of the general public. A prolific painter and regular participant in the major exhibitions of his day, Kensett had a congenial personality that led him to positions of leadership in many important art organizations. He was a member of the United States Capitol Art Commission in 1859, the principal organizer of New York's Sanitary Fair Exhibition in 1864, a founding trustee of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1870, and, at his death in 1872, president of the Artists' Fund Society.

"Born in Cheshire, Connecticut, in 1816, Kensett received his first artistic training from his father, Thomas, and an uncle, Alfred Daggett, both engravers. During the 1830s, he worked in print shops in New York, New Haven, and Albany, but grew increasingly restless at the engraver's trade and eager for a career in the fine arts. In 1840, he sailed for Europe, where he lived and worked in England and Paris and toured the Rhine region, Switzerland, and Italy.

"On his return to New York late in 1847, Kensett's artistic career began to flourish. He was elected an Associate of the National Academy of Design in 1848; in 1849, the year he was also elected to the prestigious Century Association, he was made an Academician. During that period, he established what would become his lifelong working practice: he spent the summers sketching the White Mountains, Lake George, the Newport coast, or the Adirondacks and the winters painting in his Washington Square studio. He occasionally visited more exotic locales (the Mississippi River in 1854 and 1868, the American West in 1857 and 1870, and Europe in 1856 and 1867), but it was the picturesque scenery of New York and New England that most attracted him and that became the subject of his best pictures.

"Although Kensett's initial popularity stemmed from a series of classically balanced, arcadian landscapes he produced in the 1850s, by the 1860s he had evolved another manner, for which he is most admired today. It consists of an asymmetrical, reductive composition; a subdued, near-monochrome palette; and an interest in the effects of light and atmosphere rather than topography. That style culminated in what is called the "Last Summer's Work," a group of almost forty paintings Kensett executed in the summer of 1872, the last of his life. He died of heart failure that December, at the age of fifty-six."

- From "American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School"

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John Frederick Kensett Images

1851 The White Mountains - From North Conway
c. 1851-52 Niagara Falls and the Rapids
1854 Conway Valley, New Hampshire
1854 October Day in the White Mountains
c. 1855 A Woodland Waterfall
1857 Beacon Rock, Newport Harbor
1858 The Langdale Pike
1865 View on the Hudson
c. 1865-70 Newport Coast
1872 Eaton's Neck, Long Island
1872 Sunset on the Sea




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