George Inness in Italy
June 10, 2011 - September 18, 2011
George Inness was an American nineteeth-century landscape painter born in Nerburgh, NY, whose work was inspired by old masters including the Hudson River school, the Barbizon school, and, finally, by the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg, whose spiritualism found vivid expression in the work of Inness' maturity. Inness made two trips to Italy, the first from 1851-52 and the second from 1870-74, where he developed the tonal style of landscape for which he is most renowned. Included in the exhibition is the Timken’s L’Ariccia (read more about L'Ariccia).
This exhibition focuses on Inness’ work from the full range of his Italian production between 1850 and 1879. The paintings share properties of engagement with the distant artistic past—particularly the Renaissance and Baroque periods; exploration of both the expressive qualities and mechanical tools of painting; and unrelenting ambition, a manifestation of the artist’s inveterate desire to be a great master. Above all, Inness’s Italian work demonstrates the inductive creativity—developed through experiment, rather than derived from principle—of the artist in formation as he explored the history and nature of art.
Inness’ two trips to Italy denoted different moments in his career, first as he rose to prominence and later during his pre-eminence in landscape painting, which was already America’s signature genre. During his first trip (1851–52), Inness took inspiration from the same Italian countryside that had inspired the old masters, painting such familiar subjects as A Bit of the Roman Aqueduct (1851–52). Twilight on the Campagna, painted during this same period, however, marks a dramatic shift in style as Inness moved away from the conventional format of the pastoral landscape to the creation of sparer, more evocative compositions.
Italy lingered in Inness’ imagination after he returned to the United States in 1852. He continued to paint Italian views during the nearly two decades between his first and second trips, creating works such as St. Peter’s, Rome (1857) from his vivid memories of specific landscapes, and eventually he returned to Italy in 1870, remaining there for the next four years. This was the most productive chapter of his career. In the paintings created during this period and in later works inspired by this second trip—including Pines and Olives at Albano (The Monk) (1873) and his last dated Italian subject, Near Perugia, Italy (1879)—Inness continued to develop the atmospheric aesthetic for which he became so well known and admired. This represented the culmination of years of experimentation that had begun with his arrival in Italy in 1851. The soft focus and diaphanous paint layers that later came to be the defining attributes of tonalist painting were first inspired, and then developed and refined through Inness’ sustained engagement with Italian art and the Italian landscape.
Eleven of Inness’ most notable paintings were shown, including:
Classical Landscape, 1850
Twilight on the Campagna, ca. 1851
A Bit of the Roman Aqueduct, ca. 1852-53
St. Peter’s, Rome, 1857
Lake Nemi, 1857
Lake Albano, Italy, 1869
Pines and Olives at Albano, 1873
L’Ariccia, Italy, 1874
New Perugia, Italy, 1879
An Upland Village in the Italian Tyrol, ca 1873
Valley of Cadore, Italy, 1873
In conjunction with George Inness in Italy, the Timken offered a variety of educational programs including lectures, gallery talks, tours and other special events.
This exhibition was organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and its Center for American Art. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue were supported by grants from The Mr. & Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, the Henry Luce Foundation, and the Terra Foundation for American Art, and by a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. Frank Martucci. This exhibition was presented locally through the support of the ResMed Foundation and Friends of the Timken.