Sunset on the Passaic, George Inness

George Inness (American, 1825–1894) 

Sunset on the Passaic, 1891 

Oil on canvas Purchase, 1970 (3698.1) 

The highly saturated colors and palpable atmosphere of this painting of the Passaic River at sunset exemplifies the evocative and highly personal style of George Inness. Inness was trained in the United States under the influence of the master landscapists Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand, but in the 1850s he traveled frequently to Paris, where he encountered the artists of the French Barbizon School. Exchanging the tight brushwork and heightened illusionism of the Hudson River School style for the loose subjectivity favored by the Barbizon artists, Inness developed a highly expressionistic approach to landscape painting. In this example, an atmospheric cloak of golden light both obscures nature’s details and suggests deep significance beneath its surfaces, for Inness believed that "everything in nature has something to say to us."