George Inness’ A Bit Of Roman Aqueduct, painted between 1852 and 1853 is characteristic of the artist’s reproductions of the sweeping vistas and rolling landscapes that made him the dominant figure of the Hudson River School, an informal grouping of painters that capitvated nineteenth-century American painting. Influenced by the aesthetic concerns of Romanticism, the Hudson River School became known for their idiosyncratic style characterized by luminous lighting, aerial perspective, invisible brushwork, and tranquil idyllic views that would later become known as Luminism. Although preceding Impressionism, Luminism has no relation to the French aesthetic of capturing the effects of light, instead Inness and his contemporaries were attracted by depicting things as they should be, not as they are. Yet Inness stands out from the group in the ways his philosophical background gave weight and rigour to his compositions. Known to many as the father of American landscape painting, Innes' maturity greatly influenced the forging of the Tonalist style in the 1880s.
Painted just after Inness’ first trip abroad in 1851, A Bit Of Roman Aqueduct, is the product of the artist’s time in Rome and Florence in which he met portraitist William Page and became engrossed with the works of Titian. Most importantly, through Page, Inness became acquainted with the works of Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, which greatly contributed to the forging of his own idiosyncratic style. Visiting Paris upon his return to New York, Inness saw paintings by the Barbizon school of artists that would come to inform his later Tonalist works. The preeminent painter of mystic reproductions of the American landscape, Inness’ paintings are suffused with a distinct philosophical contemplation that set him apart from his spiritual peers. Eventually eclipsed by European modernism, Inness’ works are emblems of an innovative atmosphere of forward-thinking painting.
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