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Between and Mortarboard


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Sunset

Accession Number
1954/1.170

Title
Sunset

Artist(s)
George Inness

Object Creation Date
1886

Medium & Support
oil on canvas, laid down on panel

Dimensions
33 1/2 in x 28 1/2 in (85.09 cm x 72.39 cm);33 1/2 in x 28 1/2 in x 2 1/2 in (85.09 cm x 72.39 cm x 6.35 cm)

Credit Line
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker

Label copy
March 28 2009
Although Inness began his career creating landscapes in the style of the Hudson River school, his paintings became increasingly less representational after his discovery of the teachings of the Swedish scientist and philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), whose belief in the “correspondences” between the material and spiritual worlds had a profound impact on his thought. Inness was a deeply religious person, and in Sunset, one of the mature works for which he is best known, he sought to elicit in the viewer a sense of spiritual transcendence. He evokes a strong sense of mood through the use of saturated colors and loose brushwork, and the scene is suffused with a sense of reverie and of spiritual longing that is heightened by the chromatic highlights of the fading light. Although it has been suggested that Cragmoor, New York, is the site depicted in Sunset, many of Inness’s mature works were produced in the studio, where he drew on visual memory to create scenes inspired by specific places. Inness’s goal was not for his paintings to replicate nature or describe a particular place, but to convey the profound spiritual meaning he felt the landscape around him possessed.
By the time of his death, he was a leading figure of American landscape painting.

Subject matter
Influenced by the Barbizon school of painting in France, Inness worked to interpret rather than simply record nature; his loose brushwork, rich palette and use of light evoke palpable atmospheric effects and a strong sense of mood.
This work exhibits many of the trademarks of Inness’ late style: diaphanous paint surfaces, soft vibrating colors, softened edges, and a less panoramic landscape creating a more intimate, personal experience for the viewer; which along with a dramatic juxtaposition of sky and earth and saturated color adds a sense of immediacy and intensity to the work.

Physical Description
Landscape scene depicting trees silhouetted against a reddening sky with a dead fallen tree trunk lying diagonally across the foreground.

Primary Object Classification
Painting

Primary Object Type
landscape

Rights
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Keywords
Barbizon School
Tonalist
forests (cultural landscapes)
sky
sunset
trees
woods

& Author Notes

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