John Frederick Kensett was born in March 1816, in Cheshire, Connecticut. In his young years he attended the local Cheshire Academy and learned to engrave with his father and later with his uncle, this would be very important to Kensett’s artistic career. He worked as an engraver until about 22 years old in the New Haven area, after that he went to New York City, to work as banknote engraver.
To be able to study painting, Kensett along with John William Casilear, and Asher Durand had to travel to Europe. There they came to meet Benjamin Champney, who ventured with them throughout Europe. This trip was very prolific and helped refine their talents and make contact with the works of many different artists and techniques, Kensett developed a keen affinity and appreciation for Dutch landscape paintings of the 1700s. In 1847 both Kensett and Champney returned to the United States.
Back in the United States, John Frederick Kensett chose to establish himself in New York City, where he opened his studio. Although the artist was settled in New York, he regularly traveled to Europe as well as regions in the US, especially the Colorado Rocky Mountains and the Northeast as a whole. The artist is best known for his landscapes and seascapes around New York, New Jersey, Long Island, and New England. He is often associated with the Hudson River School’s second generation, along with names like Fitz Henry Lane, Martin Johnson Heade, Jasper Francis Cropsey, and Sanford Robinson Gifford to name some. Their work was heavily characterized by nearly invisible brushstrokes and keen attention given to the effects of light on the scenery. The group became known as The Luminists. This attention to detail and the care of which nature was represented are the influences of Transcendentalist philosophies, in which the means to get closer to spiritual truth are the contemplation of nature, which is sublime.
In 1851 Kensett painted a canvas with monumental proportions of Mount Washington, this very painting was one of the responsible of popularizing the White Mountain region of New Hampshire and also became a reference of White Mountain art. He increasingly evolved his style by the years, going from a more traditional form of the Hudson River School into a Luminist style of his own. One of the main examples of this is Eaton’s Neck, Long Island painted in 1872, now being part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York.
John Frederick Kensett died in December 1872 in his New York studio, due to heart failure after contracting pneumonia. He was widely praised during his lifetime and left a history supporting artists and art in general, being president and founder of the Artists’ Fund Society, a full member of the National Academy of Design as well as one of the founders and trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.