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Sunset Near Darien

John Frederick Kensett

Artwork Details

Sunset Near Darien
circa 1872
John Frederick Kensett
oil on board
13 15/16 in x 18 1/16 in (35.4 cm x 45.88 cm)
Anonymous Gift


March 28 2009
The aftermath of the U.S. Civil War (1861–1865) left Americans shaken and riddled with a collective sense of uncertainty. Seeking a place of solace, Kensett acquired property just off the coast of Connecticut in an area aptly named Contentment Island. It was there that the artist painted some of his finest works, transitioning from a traditional Hudson River school style to a Luminist style, characterized by a strong interest in capturing the effects of atmospheric light in landscapes. Kensett favored horizontally formatted, panoramic compositions that featured huge skies and broad coastal views and provided lots of room to explore the play of both color and light on land and water. His earliest training was as an engraver, and it may be that his experience with the modulation of the gray scale requisite to that art gave him his almost unrivalled ability to render color values and saturation. With its distillation of forms, virtually imperceptible brush strokes, subtle tonal changes, and shimmering light effects, Sunset Near Darien creates a timeless mood of peace and tranquility.

Subject Matter:

Seeking solace after the Civil War, Kensett acquired property on Contentment Island on the Long Island Sound near Darien, Connecticut. This painting, probably painted from the artist's third-floor bedroom window or cupola, at the highest point of the island, captures the spirit of a nation in transition after the Civil War and reflects the desire to escape the congestion of growing cities to a place of placid retreat, and a longing to return to nature and the simpler, rural life of early America.

Physical Description:

Landscape painting of costal scene overlooking a body of water using an aerial perspective; three tree tops in center in darkened foreground in front of a glowing sky

Usage Rights:

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