Born the son of immigrant engraver Thomas Kensett, John Frederick Kensett studied the trade with his father, and later with his uncle, Alfred Dagget. He worked as engraver in the New Haven area until about 1838, after which he went to work as a bank note engraver in New York City. In 1840, along with Asher Durand and John Casilear, Kensett traveled to Europe in order to study painting. There he met and traveled with Benjamin Champney. The two sketched and painted throughout Europe, refining their talents. During this period Kensett developed an appreciation and affinity for 17th century Dutch landscape painting. Kensett and Champney returned to the United States in 1847. After establishing his studio and settling in New York, Kensett traveled extensively throughout the Northeast and the Colorado Rockies as well as making several trips back to Europe. Kensett is most well known for his landscapes of upstate New York and New England, and seascapes of coastal New Jersey, Long Island and New England. He is most closely associated with the so-called "second generation" of the Hudson River School. Along with Sanford R. Gifford, Fitz Hugh Lane, J.F. Cropsey, Martin Johnson Heade and others, the works of the "Luminists" , as they came to be known, were characterized by unselfconscious, nearly invisible brushstrokes used to convey the qualities and effects of atmospheric light. It could be considered the spiritual, if not stylistic, cousin to Impressionism. Kensett was widely acclaimed and financially successful during his lifetime. In turn, he was generous in support of the arts and artists. He was a full member of the National Academy of Design, the founder and president of the Artists' Fund Society, and a founder and trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kensett contracted pneumonia, (perhaps during the rescue of a friend in the Long Island Sound), and died of heart failure at his New York studio in December of 1872.
Although here Kensett does not depict the New World as an Edenic wilderness, as did Thomas Cole(compare his Lake with Dead Trees), the isolation of the scene, the absence of any humans or animals, and the precise yet atmospheric depiction of light infuse the painting with a divine presence of a different sort.
Kensett is known to have visited Lake Champlain only two times, in August 1848 and in the summer of 1853, but he often painted scenes he had seen and/or sketched many years earlier.
During his lifetime, Kensett was generally regarded as one of the finest among those second-generation artists of the Hudson River school who built upon Thomas Cole's literal transcriptions of Northeastern scenes and created quiet, intimate, and serene landscapes.
Kensett was born in Cheshire, Connecticut, the son of an English immigrant engraver in whose New Haven shop a few years later he received his first instruction in drawing and engraving.
In 1859 President Buchanan named Kensett one of three advisors for the decoration of the U.S. Capitol, an appointment that was suspended at the onset of the Civil War.
Kensett on the other hand shared much with his older mentor Durand in the appreciation of nature close up, perceived in terms of human scale, readily approachable: nature to marvel and enjoy for its manifold intricacy rather than its breathtaking vista.
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