John Frederick Kensett

(22 March 1816 - 14 December 1872)

American artist and engraver; he attended the Cheshire Academy, and studied engraving with his father, Thomas Kensett and his uncle, Alfred Daggett. He worked as an engraver in New Haven from 1838. In 1840, he went to Europe with Asher Durand and John William Casilear to study painting. He met Benjamin Champney, then the two men returned to America in 1847. Kensett opened his studio in New York, and traveled in the East and in the Rocky Mountains. His paintings depict the landscapes of New England, of the state of New York, the coast of this region. He is associated with the second generation of the Hudson River School and Luminism, alongside Sanford Robinson Gifford, Fitz Hugh Lane, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Martin Johnson Heade. In 1851, Kensett painted a huge canvas of Mount Washington that became an icon of White Mountain art. Mount Washington from the Valley of Conway was purchased by the American Art Union. Member of the National Academy of Design, he also founded the Artists' Fund Society and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kensett contracted pneumonia (perhaps during the attempted rescue of Mary Lydia (Hancock) Colyer, the wife of his friend and fellow artist Vincent Colyer in Long Island Sound) and died of heart failure at his New York studio in December of 1872 [en.Wikipedia].

He attended the Cheshire Academy, and studied engraving with his father, Thomas Kensett, and then with his uncle, Alfred Daggett. He works as a writer in New Haven from 1838. In 1840, he traveled to Europe with Asher Durand and John William Casilear to study painting. He met Benjamin Champney, and the two men returned to America in 1847.

Kensett opened his studio in New York, and travelled in the Northeast and in the Rocky Mountains, along with Sanford Robinson Gifford and Worthington Whittredge.

His paintings depict the landscapes of New England, the State of New York, the coast of that region. He is associated with the second generation of the Hudson River School and Luminism alongside Sanford Robinson Gifford, Fitz Hugh Lane, Jasper Francis Cropsey, and Martin Johnson Heade.

In 1851, he began a huge canvas of Mount Washington that became an icon of White Mountain art. The table entitled "Mount Washington from the Valley of Conway" was purchased by the American Art Union. Member of the National Academy of Design, he also founded the Artists' Fund Society and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.



American landscape painter, the leader of the second generation of the Hudson River School artists. Kensett trained as an engraver by his father, Thomas Kensett, and his uncle, Alfred Daggett, a banknote engraver. In 1838, Kensett went to New York City to work for a company banknote. Two years later, together with Asher B. Durand, John W. Casilear, and Thomas P. Rossiter, he went to Europe, where, in the tradition of artists of his generation, he received his artistic education by traveling, looking at pictures, and visiting artists in their leading studios. By the time Kensett returned to the United States in 1847, he had established a reputation based on paintings from Europe. In 1849, he was elected to the National Academy of Design, and he was a founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.







Although Kensett was an engraver, he never lost the sense of draftsmanship in his paintings, most of his focus was on the depiction of light, using color values ​​to render minute gradations in intensity (eg. "Storm over Lake George", 1870). His pallet was low-key, and much of his work has silvery paleness. Whether painting the White or Green mountains, the Catskills, or a lonely strip of Atlantic shoreline at Newport, Rhode Island, he conveyed a strong sense of locality through His careful observation of detail and his deep sensitivity to the nuances of atmosphere. The style developed by Kensett has been labeled luminism by art historians, in acknowledgment of his handling of light in an attempt to link his work to the philosophical doctrines of Ralph Waldo Emerson, with whom Kensett associated from the 1870s until His death, and other Transcendentalists. He was a formidable force in the New York art world until his death, and his reputation was further reinforced by the patronage he received from America's most influential collectors.




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John Frederick Kensett was an American artist and engraver. A member of the second generation of the Hudson River School of artists, Kensett's signature works are landscape paintings of New England and New York State, whose clear light and serene surfaces celebrate transcendental qualities of nature, and are associated with Luminism. Kensett's early work owed much to the influence of Thomas Cole, but was from the outset distinguished by a preference for cooler colors and an interest in less dramatic topography, favoring restraint in both palette and composition. The work of Kensett's maturity features tranquil scenery depicted with a spare geometry, culminating in series of paintings in which coastal promontories are balanced against glass-smooth water. Kensett attended school at Cheshire Academy, and studied engraving with his immigrant father, Thomas Kensett, and later with his uncle, Alfred Dagget. He worked as engraver in the New Haven area until about 1838, after which he went to work as a bank note engraver in New York City.

In 1840, along with Asher Durand and John William Casilear, Kensett traveled to Europe in order to study painting. There he met and traveled with Benjamin Champney. The two sketched and painted throughout Europe, refining their talents. During this period, Kensett developed an appreciation and affinity for 17th century Dutch landscape painting. Kensett and Champney returned to the United States in 1847.

After establishing his studio and settling in New York, Kensett traveled extensively throughout the Northeast and the Colorado Rockies as well as making several trips back to Europe.

In 1851, Kensett painted a monumental canvas of Mount Washington that has become an icon of White Mountain art. "Mount Washington from the Valley of Conway" was purchased by the American Art Union, made into an engraving by James Smillie, and distributed to 13,000 Art Union subscribers throughout the country. Other artists painted copies of this scene from the print. Currier and Ives published a similar print in about 1860. This single painting by Kensett helped to popularize the White Mountain region of New Hampshire.

Kensett's style evolved gradually, from the traditional Hudson River School manner in the 1850s into the more refined Luminist style in his later years. By the early 1870s Kensett was spending considerable time at his home on Contentment Island, on Long Island Sound near Darien, Connecticut.

It was during this time that Kensett painted some of his finest works. Many of these were spare and luminist seascapes, the prime example being "Eaton's Neck, Long Island" (1872), now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The artist was widely acclaimed and financially successful during his lifetime. In turn, he was generous in support of the arts and artists. He was a full member of the National Academy of Design, the founder and president of the Artists' Fund Society, and a founder and trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Kensett contracted pneumonia (perhaps during the attempted rescue of Mary Lydia (Hancock) Colyer, the wife of his friend and fellow artist Vincent Colyer in Long Island Sound) and died of heart failure at his New York studio in December 1872. In 1874, Kensett's brother Thomas gave thirty-eight of his paintings to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, of which half remain in the collection. The first complete biography and factual study of Kensett's work was written by © Ellen H. Johnson, published in 1957.



External links:
American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School
Art and the empire city: New York, 1825-1861
White Mountain paintings by John Frederick Kensett
John Frederick Kensett.org>

View painter's work: google.com [new window view] -- John Frederick Kensett


Born: March 22, 1816 in Cheshire, Connecticut
Death: December 14, 1872 in New York
Training: Cheshire Academy
Art Movement: Hudson River School, Luminism