Like many of John Frederick Kensett’s mature works, The Morning Mist does not shout, it whispers. His view of a lake, mountains, and sky suggests the gentle poetry of nature. The distant rower on the left serves as a reminder that nineteenth-century Americans liked to escape the pressures of modern urban life by retreating to unspoiled country. Presumably, a landscape painting like this, hung on the walls of a city home, could serve as an ever-present substitute for such a restorative experience.
To draw the viewer into this magic realm, Kensett establishes a viewpoint at the water’s edge with points of land, curving shadows, and swirling clouds. Warm, glowing colors and trails of mist set the proper mood, while a careful placement of land masses gives a feeling of equilibrium and enclosure. Kensett’s landscape evokes a benign nature, compliant with the needs of man. Morning Mist is one of many works left unfinished in Kensett’s studio at the time of his death.
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