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John Frederick Kensett

On the Hudson


John Frederick Kensett
Cheshire, Connecticut, 1816 – New York 1872


On the Hudson




Oil on canvas


154.3 x 119.7 cm


Gift of the family of Dr. F. Wolferstan Thomas, inv. 1918.91


Western Art

John Frederick Kensett was among the most renowned painters of the second generation of the Hudson River School. Widely regarded as the first truly American school of painting, the group took shape in the mid-nineteenth century and is most closely identified with the work of Thomas Cole, who turned to the native landscape, particularly the areas around the Hudson River in New York, for inspiration. With its oval format that hugs the edges of the landscape, On the Hudson is a comforting and “melodious” picture, as Kensett’s critics often described his work. Yet, nature is not untouched here. Small daubs of red and black paint indicate the presence of tourists in the forest, and the boats in the distance signal the encroachment of commerce on the wilderness. Although nature and civilization co-exist in harmony here, the dense barrier of trees before the water’s edge seems to want to protect against the trappings of the outside world.

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