The Juniata Riverc. 1856 by
Inness, George 1825-1894
According to early twentieth-century sources, this scene represents the countryside near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. If so, it may have had a special significance for Inness, since of his earliest works were painted at the home of his brother James who lived in nearby Pottsville. For his Baltimore patron Augustus Albert, Inness created this vision of man in harmony with nature. Such "civilized" landscapes are typical of Inness and set him apaprt from artists such as Thomas Cole (1801-48), Frederic Church (1826-1900), and Albert Bierstadt, who are famous for their celebrations of the untamed wilderness.
The Juniata River conveys the serenity of a summer day. No wind stirs the trees or ruffles the slow-moving river. A cowherd daydreams; a far-off village promised have; a rotting tree stump shelters flowers, implying life evolving from death.
The twenty-six-year-old Inness painted this pastoral scene just two years after his return from Europe, where he had been impressed by the work of the French Barbizon artists. Juniata River is one of the first works to show how he assimilated their lessons. The fact that is still resembles his earlier work indicates that he did not merely succumb to their examples or change direct abruptly. The most evident departure is the color, which is no longer dark and tonal but brighter, less unified, with abrupt changes from brown to blue-green in foliage and sky, and surprising pastels in the stream. In addition, his paint is applies here and there in thick dabs, a change from his earlier, tighter method.
Despite changes in color and technique, the construction of the painting still follows the familiar formulas of Claude Lorrain. Trees frame a distant view, while the river's winding course leads the viewer's eye gradually into the background. The response of the curve throughout the painting creates a Claudian effect of ease.
Size (inches): 36 3/4 x 54 3/8
Medium: Oil on Canvas