Classroom Use

Article excerpt

FEATURED ARTWORK George Inness (American, 1825-1894). Delaware Water Gap, (1861. Oil on canvas. 36" x 50 1/8". The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Morris K. Jessup Fund, 1922. (32.151) Photograph [C] 1988 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


* George Inness considered himself self-taught and yet, as a result of traveling and studying the work of other artists, his changing painting style showed that he learned from what he saw. Even though he did not attend an art school, he was continually discovering new ideas from pictures by artists whose work he admired.

* Inness enjoyed art as a boy, and by age 15 had decided to become an artist. During his childhood, most of what he knew about art came from pictures in books his parents had collected. One of his favorite artists was the French landscape painter, Claude Lorrain.

Inness' father tried to interest him in a business career, but did not stand in his son's way when he saw how determined his son was to be a painter.

* In many ways, George Inness fits the popular idea of an artist. He was only 5' 5" tall and was quite thin. He was not very strong and was often depressed. He had a pale face, deep, dark eyes and untidy, floppy hair. He also had a reputation for being quarrelsome.

Inness was passionate about his art and worked with great speed, some said without stopping for breath. He also changed subjects very often, so that a picture that started as a wet and foggy scene might be changed to one with a blue sky and white clouds, and end up as a sunset.

* During his lifetime, Inness was regarded as the greatest landscape painter in America, but rapid changes in art soon after his death led to his paintings being almost forgotten.

His talent was first recognized when he was 19, and subsequently his reputation rose rapidly. After returning home from two trips to Europe--one at the age of 26 and another at 28--Inness changed his painting style, having seen work by Dutch and French artists, especially a group of painters who worked in the village of Barbizon, near Paris. Present-day students may find it difficult to realize that very few prints of paintings existed then and artists were unable to find out about the work of other artists unless they traveled to see the originals.

Critics did not like Inness' new style, however, and for about 10 years, he had a difficult time selling his paintings. His persistence eventually overcame these objections and his painting style became popular for the rest of his life.


* One of the first things students should do after studying this picture is to learn more about the area where most of the artist's work was done. …