John Frederick Kensett (New York/Connecticut, 1816-1872), “Early Autumn,” oil on board Luminist landscape painting depicting sunrise or sunset over Contentment Island, site of Kensett’s studio, near Darien, Connecticut. Circa 1872. Unsigned. Titled verso, with 1960s-1970s exhibition labels for Wickersham Gallery, New York. Housed in a giltwood Hudson River School style frame. Sight – 13 1/2″ H x 17 3/8″ W. Framed – 20 1/8″ H x 24 1/8″ W. Note: Celebrated American Luminist painter John Frederick Kensett died in 1872, attempting to rescue the drowning wife of fellow artist Vincent Coyler. The following year, this work was included, along with many other works from his studio, in the Kensett Memorial Exhibition held at the National Academy of Design. It is illustrated on page 45 of the photographic album of the exhibit (refer to scan of photograph, upper left corner). This newly rediscovered Kensett painting will be included in the forthcoming John Frederick Kensett Catalogue Raisonne being prepared under the direction of Dr. John Driscoll. Provenance: The Estate of Dr. Benjamin H. Caldwell, Nashville, Tennessee, acquired from Orrin Wickersham June in the 1970s. Case is grateful to Dr. Janice Simon, the Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor of Art History at the Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia; guest curator and principal author of the 2001 exhibit and catalog “Images of Contentment: John Kensett and the Connecticut Shore,” for the following essay: In 1867, painter John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872), ordinarily a New York City resident, bought nine acres of Contentment Island from his friend, fellow painter Vincent Colyer. Composed of the three Fish Islands, five Crabb Islands, salt meadow and marsh lands of Long Island Sound at Darien, Connecticut, this property permitted Kensett to engage eye and mind, senses and feelings with one place over an extended period without the interference of tourists. Indeed, his contemporaries equated his Contentment Island paintings with subjective responses to nature “very near to his own door,” so that artist, nature, and “God’s abounding gifts” became poetically one. “Early Autumn’s” sunrise scene, with two thirds of the painting displaying an intense rainbow of colors from orange-red along the horizon to bright chrome yellow blending into cerulean and grayer blue with painterly wisps of clouds at the top, displays Kensett’s intense absorption with place, atmosphere, and spirit. Looking down and across the shadowed point of land populated with cedars and pines jutting into Long Island Sound, this scene recalls the exact coloring, size, and proportions of Sunrise Near Darien (oil on panel 14″ x 18″, University of Michigan Museum of Art), though the waters are on the opposite side of the canvas. Both canvases appear side by side in the upper left of the photograph of the Kensett Memorial Exhibition held in 1873 at the National Academy of Design. Both paintings, along with the dramatic sunsets and twilights Kensett recorded while living on Contentment Island, convey an artist engaged with the modernist sensibilities of Tonalism with its emphasis on suggestion over definition, poetry of color over niggling detail, deep feeling over topographies of place. With Early Autumn and other paintings of Contentment Island, Kensett approached the aesthetics of George Inness and John La Farge. Unfortunately, his unexpected death in December 1872 cut short his modernist experiment. CONDITION: Overall good condition. Lower right quadrant has area of bloom in varnish; small pinprick indention near side; and three small gouges near bottom edge, largest 1/4″ L. Top center has 5 scattered semitransparent blue accretions and 2″ diagonal scratch. 1/8″ area of paint loss and accretion at left top corner. Left bottom corner has a 1″ faint splatter accretion 2″ from side. PRE-APPROVAL IS REQUIRED TO BID ON THIS LOT. PLEASE CONTACT CASEANTIQUES, INC. AT THE KNOXVILLE GALLERY FOR DETAILS. 865-558-3033 or BID@CASEANTIQUES.COM.
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