Modern Art and the Object: A Century of Changing Attitudes

By Ellen H. Johnson | Go to book overview

3 'The Mountain in the Painting
and the Painting in the Mountain'

A Nineteenth-century American Nature Painter:
John F. Kensett

Among the mid-nineteenth century American artists who placed their cards in the advertising pages of The Crayon was John F. Kensett, whose invitation appearing in the 14 February 1855 issue of that New York magazine reads, 'J. F. Kensett, Landscape Painter, Studio, Waverley House, 697 Broadway, At Home on Thursdays'. In 1867 Henry T. Tuckerman wrote, 'Since 1848 ... his [Kensett's] studio has been one of the attractions in New York to all lovers of art and native scenery.' 1 After Kensett's death, George W. Curtis of Harper's Magazine declared, 'There was no wall in New York so beautiful as that of his old studio, at the top of the Waverley House, on the comer of Broadway and Fourth Street, upon which they [Kensett's sketches] were hung in a solid mass.' 2

The 'At Homes' of Kensett and his painter friends provided only one of several means by which the American artist of a hundred years ago demonstrated his willingness to meet his public more than half-way. Not only were individual studios opened, but groups of artists banding together held large receptions, arranged exhibitions and assisted the art-minded men of business in the organization of museums and art associations. 3 The visitors to Kensett's studio found pleasure in the pictures hanging on the walls, and also in the character and presence of the man who had painted them. None of Kensett's many friends, acquaintances, critics, and the younger artists whom he frequently helped, failed to mention the gentleness and sweetness of his nature. However, Kensett's amiability was tempered with a manly decisiveness, even as the sweet serenity of his paintings was tempered by firmness of control and breadth of vision. This happy combination is in large measure at the source of Kensett's own distinctive style as a painter. Kensett the artist consistently revealed Kensett the man, sensitive, thoughtful and gentle. For the reason that Kensett's painting is to this extent autobiographical and because his life and work are of considerable significance in a study of the condition of art and the position of the artist in mid-nineteenth century America, and because his drawings are often closely related to those of his friends (and sometimes confused with them), the following study is largely biographical, with particular attention directed towards establishing the chronology of his activities.

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Modern Art and the Object: A Century of Changing Attitudes
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface to the Revised Edition 7
  • Preface 9
  • 1 - Modern Art and the Object from Nineteenth-Century Nature Painting to Conceptual Art 10
  • 2 - The Object Painted and the Painted Object in Quiet Collision 65
  • 3 'the Mountain in the Painting and the Painting in the Mountain' 78
  • 4 - The Painting Freed 97
  • 5 'I Am Nature' 110
  • 6 - Object as Art 135
  • 7 - Art as Object 171
  • 8 - The Object in Jeopardy 196
  • 9 - Women Reshaping the Object 216
  • Notes 261
  • List of Illustrations 273
  • List of Figures 280
  • Acknowledgments 281
  • Index 283
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