Dawn of Morning, Lake George, oil on canvas, 20 x 33in., Albany Institute of History and Art, Albany, New York
Cropsey's 1867 work, Dawn of Morning, Lake George, is a splendid example of the artist's gift for meticulously rendering the light and atmosphere of an autumn morning. In this work, Cropsey reveals "the two sides of the complex philosophical debate that engaged many nineteenth century landscape painters: the importance of the real versus the ideal in the representation of nature." (E.M. Foshay in Jasper F. Cropsey: Artist and Architect, New York, 1987, p. 19)
Cropsey presents his viewer with an absolutely serene break of dawn. The distant islands and the sky are painted in flawless, subdued tones of pink, yellow, blue and lavender. The mood is one of complete stillness that is not contradicted by the clouds, which remain mute while sweeping dramatically across the sky. The fantastic elements in the work are supported in their veracity by each element of the landscape which has been articulated with Cropsey's characteristic meticulous attention to detail.
Cropsey's choice of Lake George is not surprising, as it was a rural spot that attracted many artists for its inspiring vistas. "At the eastern edge of the Adirondack mountains, midway between Lake Champlain and Canada, lies Lake George. Its spectacular beauty was widely acclaimed in the nineteenth century and attracted artist such as Asher B. Durand, John F. Kensett, and Jasper F. Cropsey. The popularity of Lake George as a vacation spot grew from descriptions like this one in a guide book of Cropsey's time: 'it is 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 a year; some are of considerable size, and cultivated; while others are only a barren rock, rising majestically out of the surrounding waters. The wild and romantic scenery of the lake is nowhere surpassed.'" (M. Brennecke in Jasper F. Cropsey: Artist and Architect, New York, 1987, p. 94).
Cropsey has used his richest artistic resource to demonstrate his declaration that the "...best poetry as well as the best paintings [are] those inspired by nature. He most admired those works by Cole which were the nearest transcripts of nature, declaring the idealization or imagination had produced nothing to compete with them." (W.S. Talbot, Jasper F. Cropsey, Washington, DC, 1970, p. 17)
This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonn of the artist's work, which is being prepared by the Newington-Cropsey Foundation, Hastings-on-Hudson.