Although Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand, the two most influential American landscape painters of the first half of the nineteenth century, were admired by George Inness, he pursued an entirely different path as a landscape painter. Inness went on to produce a body of work marked by a more subjective and ultimately more modern aesthetic. Having spent time in Italy, France, and throughout the Northeastern United States, Inness came to North Conway, New Hampshire in the summer of 1875, hoping to find some inspiration among the scenery where Cole, Durand, John Frederick Kensett, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Albert Bierstadt, and Winslow Homer had before.
However, "when he did paint there, it was not in the usual way. He shifted the burden of expression from natural monuments to natural moments, depicting the sometimes dramatic, sometimes delicate play of color, light, and atmospheric movement, not specific scenes or celebrated sites. In so doing, he reinterpreted and refreshed the White Mountains as a subject of art." (N. Cikovsky, George Inness, Los Angeles, California, 1985, p. 128)
North Conway relates closely to an 1876 work titled Saco Ford: Conway Meadows (Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, South Hadley, Massachusetts), which, as do many of Inness's North Conway canvases, dramatizes the contrast between the impressive intensity of a building storm with the doomed quiet of a lower-lying surrounding grassland. In fact, a 1875 excerpt from Appleton's Journal which describes a similar scene could certainly apply to North Conway: "Great masses of cloud and the vapors that precede the mountain-storms, which, descending the upper ridges of the mountain, settle down toward the valley below, and wrap its huge shoulders in obscurity and gloom. Frequently by day the farms and orchards that cover its base are bathed in bright sunshine, while the upper reaches of the mountain are hidden by dense and dark thunder clouds, which roll about it in round masses dun as smoke." (as quoted in N. Cikovsky, George Inness, Washington, D.C., 1993, p. 86)
This painting will be included in Michael Quick's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's works.