George Inness, Sunset at Etretat, 1875
George Inness (1825-1894) was an American artist of the Hudson River School. Generally considered the American counterpart to Impressionism, members of the Hudson River School were also concerned with accurate depiction of light and often painted nature scenes from the Hudson Valley. I set out to do in American artist today, but the painting I ended up choosing was done in France. The cliffs of Etretat were a very popular subject for French artists and those visiting France, but most depict the cliffs from the other side, showing their distinctive shape. Instead, Inness sits on the cliffs and shows the view looking out from there (although he did also do another painting from the usual angle). This piece shows a different palette from a lot of Inness's work and more tonal variety. Many of his pieces are beautiful forest scenes rendered in deep greens and browns, or perhaps sunsets of bright orange. This painting is a powerful expanse of land and sea that portrays the vast scope of nature's beauty. The deep blue of the sky, delicate white/grey of the clouds, rich green of the grass, and the striking orange line of the blazing sunset all blend perfectly and crest a scene of great beauty and power. Additionally, much of Inness's work has a somewhat fantastical or mystical view of nature whereas this is more realistic. The addition of a figure sitting on the grass, a standin for each of us, only adds to the impact of the scene and the effectiveness of the painting.
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