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John Frederick Kensett (1818 - 1872)

Lot 61: JOHN F. KENSETT 1816-1872


May 19, 2004
New York, NY, US

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signed with the artist's monogrammed initials JFK and dated '72, l.l.

oil on canvas

This work will be included in the forthcoming John F. Kensett catalogue raisonné being compiled under the direction of John Driscoll.


18 1/4 by 30 in.

(46.4 by 76.2 cm)


Palm Springs, California, Palm Springs Desert Museum, One Hundred Years of American Art, January-March 1979


M. Knoedler & Co., New York
Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Woolworth, Maine
Coe Kerr Gallery, New York
Scott Reid, New York, circa 1983
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York
Richard York Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1988


After several years of study abroad, John F. Kensett returned to New York in 1848 to devote the rest of his career to American subject matter and quickly distinguished himself as one of the finest painters of the Civil War era. In the late 1860s and early 1870s, Kensett turned his attention to painting along the New England coast, preferring the qualities of light and atmosphere to those of the Hudson River Valley and it is often these canvases that are acknowledged as his masterworks. Kensett mostly took a topographical approach to these views, finding universal qualities in his meticulous renderings of specific locales. During this time "Kensett shifted from the more conventional anecdotal picturesque mode derived from the tradition of Cole and Durand, to the quiet openness, light and simplification of form, color and composition that is now...associated with the phenomenon of 'luminism." (John Paul Driscoll and John K. Howat, John Frederick Kensett: An American Master, New York, 1985, p. 99) In On the Coast, Beverly Shore, Massachusetts, painted in 1872, Kensett showcases this luminist aesthetic and his ability to "transfer atmospheric effects to canvas" (Henry Tuckerman, Book of the Artists, New York, 1867 p. 513). Kensett's use of a silvery palette and his juxtaposition of the rocky outcropping with the open expanse of shore and horizon display the serene equanimity so prevalent in Kensett's mature work. This picture closely relates both in composition and palette to Coast Scene with Figures of 1869 in the collection of the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, Connecticut.

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