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George Inness



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During the 1860s George Inness became interested in exploring methods of representing the mystical concept of the “unseen,” a popular topic in American art and culture during the latter half of the nineteenth century. In "Landscape," the partially obscured silhouette of a person, barely discernible in the cleft of the wheat field, allows the viewer to project any number of potential identities onto the figure. Inness frequently painted this motif, which some scholars interpret as a metaphor for a pilgrimage or spiritual journey that the viewer is invited to share. The moody brown and visible brushstrokes of the clouds swirling across the sky add tension to the domesticated scene of farmhouses and tilled lands. However, the gentle blue sky behind the thinning clouds suggests that the harmony of agrarian life may serve as a salve to an American consciousness still raw from the fracture of the Civil War. The pilgrim’s journey toward the distant farmhouses through the rolling wheat fields implies a destination of peace and plenty. A staunch abolitionist, Inness infused many of his paintings from the late 1860s with vaguely biblical metaphors of amity and conciliation in the Reconstruction-era American landscape. [Exhibition label, 2013]

  • Artist George Inness (American, 1825–1894)
  • Title Landscape
  • Date 1867
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions unframed | 15 5/8 x 26 3/4 in.
  • Credit line Gift of Eleanor M. Foster, a tribute to Joseph D. Ketner, 1998
  • Object number WU 1998.02

Real / Radical / Psychological: The Collection on Display
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 09/09/2016 - 01/15/2017

American Places: Painting the Landscape in the Nineteenth Century
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 09/20/2013 - 01/06/2014

The Barbizon School and the Nature of Landscape
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 05/02/2008 - 07/21/2008

C. Harry Foster

Inscription Verso, lower center, in black paint: G. Inness 1864

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