KENSETT, John Frederick
(b. 1816, Cheshire, d. 1872, New York)
American landscape painter and engraver who is to this day renowned for his graceful interpretations of the nineteenth-century American wilderness. Born into a family of skilled engravers, he learnt the craft first from his father, Thomas Kensett (1786-1829), and then from his uncle Alfred Daggett (1799-1872). He studied in England, France, and Italy from 1840 to 1847, relying heavily on his engraving skills to financially support his new artistic endeavours in Europe.
Upon his return to the United States, Kensett quickly became associated with the Hudson River School of painting. His landscape paintings became an immediate success, and his work served to inspire many artists who endeavoured to further develop the fledgling American landscape tradition. Kensett's accomplishments were publicly acknowledged when he was appointed a full member of the National Academy of Design in 1849, as well as when he became a founding trustee of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1870.
While he was respectful of and influenced by the artistic tenets of the Hudson River painters, Kensett's mature work enhanced his predecessors' vision of the countryside. Turning to luminism, a later manifestation of the Hudson River ideal, Kensett chose to paint more than the unique grandeur of the American landscape by striving to capture the ethereal qualities of light and fleeting subtleties of atmosphere.
Trained in Europe and influenced by the works of French painter Claude Lorrain and British artist John Constable, Kensett was also inspired by American contributions to the landscape genre found in the works of such artists as Thomas Cole.