John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872)
John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872)

Lake George (Adirondack Mountains)

John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872)
Lake George (Adirondack Mountains)
signed with conjoined initials and dated 'JF.K. 58.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
24 x 36 in. (61 x 91.4 cm.)
Painted in 1858.
(Probably) Abraham M. Cozzens, New York.
(Probably) Estate of the above.
(Probably) Sale: Clinton Hall Art Galleries and Book Sale Rooms, New York, Entire Collection of Paintings Belonging to the Late Mr. A.M. Cozzens, 22 May, 1868, lot 68, sold by the above.
Judge Coxe, Hicksville, New York.
Mrs. Julia F. Wotman, Encino, California.
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York, 1966.
Theodore Stebbins, Jr., Branford, Connecticut, acquired from the above, 1969.
Private collection, 1969.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, 1991.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1991.
T. Armstrong, An American Odyssey: The Warner Collection of American Fine and Decorative Arts, New York, 2001, pp. 110, 189, illustrated.
Richmond, Virginia, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, American Dreams: Paintings and Decorative Arts from the Warner Collection, September 20, 1997-January 25, 1998.

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William Haydock
William Haydock

Lot Essay

With the development of railroads and steamboats aiding the trip to Upstate New York and attractive views of the Adirondacks area, Lake George became an easily accessible and popular tourist attraction in the mid-1800s. John Frederick Kensett first visited the area in 1853 and was so captivated that he continued to return and paint the magnificent lake and landscape over the following two decades. The present work likely depicts the peak of Black Mountain towering in the distance, with surrounding hills and water embodying Kensett's characteristic shifts between warm and cool tones and subtle light effects. The inclusion of the few figures, possibly Mohawk Indians, incorporates the common Hudson River School theme of the relationship between man and nature. Perhaps harkening back to a time pre-tourism, the artist depicts man as just a small element within mother nature’s greater ecosystem: the season turns to fall, aquatic birds skim the lake and the sun illuminates the vast sky.

Lake George (Adirondacks Mountains) serves as an exceptional example of the artist’s transcendental reflections on nature, highlighting the tranquility of the landscape through luminist painting techniques. Lake George became a favorite destination and subject for not only Kensett but also such notable contemporaries as Thomas Cole, Jasper Francis Cropsey and Asher B. Durand due to its sublime, awe-inspiring scenery. In The Traveler's Guide to the Hudson River of 1864, Lake George was enthusiastically described as "surrounded by high and picturesque hills, sometimes rising to mountain height, and dotted with numerous islands, said to count as many as there are days in the year; some are of considerable size, and cultivated; while others are only barren rock, rising majestically out of the surrounding waters. The wild and romantic scenery of the lake is nowhere surpassed." (as quoted in L.S. Ferber, The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision, New York, 2009, p. 98)

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