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Dallas Museum of Art announces discovery of George Inness painting

The Dallas Museum of Art announced the reattribution of a painting to the artist George Inness, widely admired as one of America’s greatest landscape painters. The work of art has been in the Museum’s collection for eighty years, entering in 1931 as part of a bequest by Cecil A. Keating. At the time of the painting’s acquisition, the unsigned work carried the title of In the Woods and was believed to be by the hand of Asher B. Durand, a leading figure of the first generation of the Hudson River school painters in the mid-19th century.

George Inness In the Woods Dallas Museum of Art

At some point during the next forty years, doubts as to the authorship of the painting were raised and the attribution was downgraded to possibly being by Durand, which held until August of this year. Sue Canterbury, The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art, viewed the painting in the Museum’s art storage area and was intrigued by its strong composition and competent execution, as well as by the questions surrounding its authorship. After an examination of the spatial organization and the techniques used in the painting, a number of artists, including Durand, were eliminated as possible creators of the work. Close scrutiny of the early works of Inness yielded the greatest degree of parity in matters of execution. Canterbury’s suspicions of Inness’s authorship were clinched, however, when she suddenly came across a pen and ink drawing from the Princeton University Art Museum that contained the key compositional elements of the Dallas work. Of these similarities, the most eye-catching is the pointing trapezoidal rock that appears in the center of both drawing and painting.

Canterbury then contacted Michael Quick, former curator of American art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and author of George Inness: A Catalogue Raisonné, published in 2007. Quick analyzed high-resolution images of the work and confirmed it as an autograph work by the artist. He also ascertained its date of execution to be approximately 1850, when the artist painted many Berkshire landscapes—a time just prior to his first trip to Europe. Quick further noted that the size and quality of the painting, as well as the small number of works known from this early period, underscore the importance of this discovery. Since the former title, In the Woods, was probably not given by the artist, the new title of Stream in the Mountains has been assigned to the work to more closely reflect stylistically the titles assigned by Inness at this period of his career.

“The confirmation that Stream in the Mountains is by the influential American landscape painter George Inness is a major discovery, and this exciting moment underscores the Museum’s focus on curatorial research in support of our mission,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. “This magnificent early work by Inness joins four additional paintings in the DMA’s collection that stem from the artist’s late career and, thus, will allow us to present visitors with a fuller understanding of the stylistic development of this superb American painter.”

“Stream in the Mountains was executed at a moment when two stylistic influences coalesced in the artist’s work—those being the naturalism of Durand and the sculptural aspects of Dutch landscape painting. This visual aesthetic ceased shortly thereafter, due to Inness’s exposure to new influences during his first trip to Italy in 1851,” added Canterbury. She further noted that “the discovery of the relationship between the compositional study at Princeton and our painting is extremely significant, in that it allows us a rare opportunity to observe Inness’s artistic process at a period for which few such pairings exist. Particularly fascinating to observe is the artist’s translation of a vertical compositional study into an expansive horizontal format in which the key features are fully maintained.”

Stream in the Mountains is on view in the DMA’s American Art galleries on Level 4, alongside Asher B. Durand’s Wooded Landscape, which is presently on loan to the DMA from the Jean and Graham Devoe Williford Charitable Trust.

George Inness was born in Newburgh, New York, in 1825, and moved to Newark, New Jersey, in his youth. Inness began studying painting as a teenager, eventually becoming a student of the French landscape painter Régis François Gignoux and attending classes at the National Academy of Design before opening his first studio in New York in the mid-19th century. In 1851 Inness traveled to Europe for the first time to study and paint, a sojourn that influenced the remainder of his career. –