Rediscovering John F. Kensett 's "Spouting Rock Beach, Newport"

05/28/2018     News and Film

This Newport subject painting by John F. Kensett, recently rediscovered and authenticated, will enter the catalogue raisonné of Kensett's work as one of the artist's earliest and key Newport subject paintings: a superb example of his ability to capture the wind and mist of a cloudy day on the beach."Spouting Rock Beach, Newport" is exactly the kind of picture, with its fluent brushwork, subtle exploration of tonal modulation and of light's subtle articulation of form that enhanced Kensett's reputation as an influential master of 19th century painting. This is without doubt one of the Newport paintings James W. Field referred to in an October 7, 1854 letter to Jasper F. Cropsey: "Kensett has been the most industrious of men lately & has collected a group of beautiful sketches."Kensett's friends and colleagues knew that the 1854 Newport paintings represented a breakthrough for Kensett and this example is one of those important paintings.This is a painting of iconic subject matter, masterfully conceived and executed and fully manifesting Kensett's intimate, new and evolving artistic vision, which has come to be known as 'Luminism'. As an unusual if not unique variation on other Kensett Newport paintings, it is also intimately related to his Shrewsbury River paintings and, an 1854 drawing of Lake Pepin on the Mississippi River (Private Collection) done earlier in the summer.All of these works are important because they occur at the very moment that he is exploring an advanced Luminist style, technique and vision, beyond that of the Thomas Cole/Asher B. Durand Hudson River School style. It is the moment in which he separates himself from his peers and embarks on a vision for painting that would have generational impact on painters of his own and subsequent times. This is an important transformational painting in Kensett's career and must be taken into account in any thorough study of his work.The painting survives in nearly perfect condition with surface impasto beautifully intact. It also has, at lower right, Kensett's classic "JFK" monogram and the date "54."Additionally, the reverse of the painting has two inscriptions, both in Kensett's readily recognizable handwriting: "Spouting Rock Beach, Newport/a study by J. F. Kensett 1854" (in graphite) and "To be ret'd to Mr Kensett" (in ink). The painting is accompanied by old period frame, possibly of European origin, and possibly original to the picture."We wish to thank Dr. John Driscoll for his kind assistance in cataloguing this lot. The painting will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of the artist's work being prepared under the direction of Dr. John Driscoll.View the American Art & Pennsylvania Impressionists catalogue.