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"George Inness: Gifts from Frank and Katherine Martucci" opens at the Clark Art Institute
George Inness (American, 1825–1894), New Jersey Landscape, 1891. Oil on canvas, 30 x 45 in. (76.2 x 114.3 cm), Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts. Gift of Frank and Katherine Martucci, 2013.1.7


WILLAIMSTOWN, MASS.- The most significant gift of American paintings since its founding will be celebrated by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in the exhibition George Inness: Gifts from Frank and Katherine Martucci, on view June 9–September 8, 2013. Eight landscapes by George Inness (American, 1825–1894) dating from 1880–1894, which were given to the Clark by Frank and Katherine Martucci, will be exhibited with two Inness paintings collected by Sterling and Francine Clark. The exhibition examines the artist’s late work when Inness had moved away from plein-air painting and naturalistic portrayals of landscapes towards a more conceptual approach to capturing mood and the actions of light and shadow.

“This exhibition provides an opportunity to consider the works of one of the great American painters of the late nineteenth century in a very special context,” said Michael Conforti, director of the Clark. “The focused nature of this collection of ten works is an ideal way in which to consider George Inness at a point in his career in which his personal beliefs were imbuing his artistry in fascinating ways. Taken as a whole, these transcendent works present a rich opportunity to explore Inness at the most important phase of his career.”

Inness was dedicated to the teachings of the Swedish philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, whose philosophy provided the artist with specific spiritual concepts that guided his depictions of nature. Wanting to do more than simply mirror and record nature, Inness developed an approach that blended realism with a visionary expression of spiritual meaning. He experimented with color, composition, and painterly technique to present a vision of the natural world beyond its physical appearance.

The ten paintings in this exhibition are brilliant expressions of the aesthetic and spiritual vision sought by Inness during his later life. These pictures were grounded in reality, many of them inspired by the countryside near the artist’s home in Montclair, New Jersey. Yet in them Inness sought to go beyond the limits of appearance to express the spiritual essence of the natural world. In Home at Montclair, Inness used thinly applied paint to capture the perfect balance between naturalism and abstraction. Various painterly techniques—quick touches of the brush, areas of pigment wiped with a rag, and scoring wet paint with the reverse end of the artist’s brush—soften the contours of New Jersey Landscape. This blurring of forms evokes a sense of the metaphysical quality of the natural world.

Among the works included in the exhibition are Sunrise in the Woods, The Road to the Village, Milton, and Green Landscape. In addition to the beauty of the subjects, the paintings provide insight into Inness’s technique. Despite its title, Autumn in Montclair is likely a scene set in Milton, New York. To produce a vivid representation of autumn, the artist applied a thin layer of red paint over the composition and, using a rag, wiped the pigment from various parts of the surface. Inness returned to the motif of a central elm tree and distant white house several times, including the compositional study The Elm Tree.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to present these new additions to our collection. Frank and Katherine Martucci’s generous gift of these eight Inness landscapes has created an exceptional focused suite of works,” Conforti said. “The opportunity to consider them side by side with our summer exhibition of works by Winslow Homer will provide our visitors with a wonderful opportunity to engage with two of the most important American artists in a very special way.”

George Inness (1825–1894) is one of the most acclaimed American artists of the nineteenth century. While he is perhaps best known for representing the landscapes around his home in Montclair, New Jersey, Inness also traveled widely throughout his career, spending extended periods of time in New York, Massachusetts, Italy, and France. He received minimal artistic training early in his career, gaining most of his knowledge by studying the old masters and absorbing influences from French Barbizon painting during his trips to Europe. Inness matured slowly as an artist, producing his most vivid and original paintings in the last decades of his life. His introduction to Swedenborgianism in the 1860s provided him with specific spiritual concepts that guided his landscape painting. Wanting to do more than simply record nature, Inness experimented with color, composition and painterly technique in an attempt to represent the relationship between the physical and spiritual realms. In the 1870s and 1880s, Inness perfected his “signature” style in which he produced the softly modeled, ethereal landscapes for which he is best known. In 1894 Inness died in Scotland while on a European tour. After his death, his reputation soared; his work influenced a generation of poetic landscape painters, and he stands today as one of America’s most revered artists.






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