Frederick Kensett

Nationalist Art


John Frederick Kensett was born in Cheshire Connecticut on March 22, 1816 and went to school at Cheshire Academy. An early introduction to art for Kensett was studying engraving with his father and later with his uncle. Kensett studied painting in Europe until he was ready to return to the United States in 1847 to start his own studio. Kensett traveled all over the Northeast and the Rockies as well as back to Europe to paint landscapes and natural surroundings. His paintings show nature in a positive light and show his embrace of the American land. His most famous works are of New England and New Jersey Seascapes. Because of his work, Frederick Kensett found popularity and success. He was a generous supporter of the arts. Kensett died of heart failure after contracting pneumonia in December of 1872.
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New England Coast

In this detailed depiction of the New England Coast Kensett makes the rocky, hilly landscape of New England a centerpiece of the work. When one looks over the rocky hill at the center of the painting, serene rolling fields and lead up to a foggy but calm sea. The calm and serene nature of the painting shows the artist's love and embracing of the land. Too add to the sense of calmness in the image, two figures can be seen standing towards the left near a tree peacefully, probably enjoying the land as well.
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Bash Bish Falls

As a part of his extensive tour of the Northeast, Kensett spend time on Mt. Washington painting the scenery he observed such as Bash Bish falls as depicted above. In this painting he utilized a strategy involving tiny, seemingly nonexistent brushstrokes which create the illusion of illumination. In this case, the luminance seems to be coming from the falls themselves instead of a normal light source. By adding this light to the painting, Kensett makes the American landscape seem warm and welcoming. And just like in much of his work, he paints a serene landscape with a calm and peaceful atmosphere hoping to show to the viewer how lucky they are to be an American on great, American soil.
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Mount Chocorua

Kensett depicts Mount Chocorua as a part of a vast, mountainous New Hampshire landscape. The mountain is set against a beautiful, light blue sky. Its light is exaggerated to the point where it is almost white to emphasize an overarching happiness and tranquility over the land. A river in the bottom right seemingly welcomes the view into the landscape, a strategy Kensett has used in other paintings as well. Kensett utilizes his luminance again to create a sense of warmth. This time the luminance comes from the sun casting light over the land. Two figures, one large, one small, who are possibly a parent and child, walk across the bridge over the river seeming so safe and secure among nature. Another figure can be seen towards the left walking out of the woods also as safe and content as anyone. The people in the image are completely in sync and at peace with nature. Kensett's goal is to portray this American landscape as welcoming, benevolent, and absolutely beautiful.