Among John Frederick Kensett's most celebrated pictures are those painted towards the end of his career. Often termed 'The Last Summer's Work,' many of these pictures were acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a purchase that was arranged by Henry Marquand, a longtime friend and financial adviser to Kensett and the treasurer and later president of the museum. A Newport Afternoon reveals many of the qualities that characterize these late works, including an emphasis on the particular quality of summer light and a spare, open composition.
Kensett painted A Newport Afternoon as a gift for Mrs. Thomas O'Sullivan, the sister-in-law of Henry Marquand. Newport was not unfamilar to the artist, as many of his friends and patrons such as the Marquand family kept summer houses there. These visits allowed Kensett the opportunity to renew friendships and to sketch the coastline in a more relaxed setting.