"Two years younger than Jasper Cropsey and Sanford Gifford, one year older than Frederic Church, Inness was the contemporary of a group of American landscape painters closely joined by shared ideals and by a common ancestry in the artistic achievement of Thomas Cole. They were America's most admired artists in the decade or so that preceded the Civil War; for instance, no price as great as that paid in 1859 for Church's Heart of the Andes had ever been paid for a contemporary American landscape painting. Such artists as Cropsey, Gifford, and Church traveled widely to England, Europe, the Near East, South America, the Arctic, and the American West. But they were so closely associated with the Hudson River valley, especially the Catskill Mountains, and so fully captured its sense of place that they came to be called the Hudson River School." (N. Cikovsky, Jr., "The Civilized Landscape," in George Inness, Los Angeles, California, 1985, pp. 11-12)
Demonstrating the spontaneous qualities of George Inness's celebrated landscape paintings, Evening epitomizes the development of the artist's impulse toward a new way of looking at landscape painting, and his quest to bring a deeper spiritual meaning into his landscapes. Painted in 1868, Evening, a peaceful, late summer pastoral scene, is typical of Inness's exploration into sensitivity of atmospheric climate and expression -- the seedlings of modernism. As any true artist in any field, Inness showed himself to be an explorer, willing to rebel against what was considered common procedure and popular practice. "When they [his contemporaries] painted nature's sublime vastness, Inness painted with poetic intimacy. When they painted tightly, he painted broadly. When they were most intensely American, he went to Italy and France and fell under the spell of foreign art." ("The Civilized Landscape," p. 12)
Many scholars consider the 1860s to be the most pivotal decade in George Inness's career. As Nicholas Cikovsky, Jr., has written: "Before 1860 Inness was only a promising young artist. But in 1860 one writer thought it was 'a matter of supreme wonder to us why this artist has not been given his place in the first rank of our landscape painters,' and another asked 'why popularity has been so long held back to consecrate a talent so remarkable.' Inness was now acclaimed as 'a man of unquestionable genius.'" ("The Civilized Landscape," p. 20)
Critical response to Inness's work increased partly in response to the artist's own remarkable development, through which his art achieved both an individuality in style and a new dimension in content. During the 1860s, Inness was able to achieve a complete synthesis of his formal means and his goal of poetic expression. The central component of this synthesis was color, which he described as 'the soul of a painting.' Forms, on the other hand, though still based in the observation of nature, were becoming softened by atmosphere and dissolved by light, in the early stages of what was to be the hallmark of Inness's fully developed style. The artist reveled in capturing the colors of dawn, dusk, twilight, moonlight, the colors of all seasons and of all hours of the day and night.
This painting will be included in Michael Quick's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.