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George Inness, Sr.



George Inness, Sr. (1825-1894) was an American landscape painter. Born in Newburgh, New York but raised in Newark, New Jersey, Inness’s youth was marked by illness, as he suffered from epilepsy. He received very little artistic training, instead, gaining most of his understanding from studying the landscapes of old masters such as Claude Lorrain and Salvator Rosa. In 1844, he started to exhibit work at the National Academy of Design in New York and, in 1846, he opened his studio in the city. He lived in Medfield, Massachusetts from 1860 to 1864, where he painted many bucolic scenes outside in the hopes that the fresh air would improve his health. A committed abolitionist, while Inness was unable to enlist in the Civil War due to his health issues, he offered incentives for people to sign up themselves and imbued his paintings with hopeful symbolism. In 1864, he moved to Eagleswood, New Jersey where he was introduced to Swedenborgianism, a religious philosophy based on the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, which would strongly influence his art and thinking for the rest of his life. A leading artist-philosopher of his generation, Inness differentiated himself from other artists in the manner in which the Swedenborgian philosophical and spiritual beliefs strongly inspired his work. Another influence in his work was French Barbizon landscape painting, especially the paintings of Théodore Rousseau, which he studied on a visit to France in 1853. The chiaroscuro and ambient effects that add to the mood of his work are distinctly inspired by the Barbizon painters. Inness continued painting landscapes and looking for new painting techniques throughout his life. He traveled and relocated numerous times, taking artistic inspiration from his surroundings, before passing away on a trip to Scotland in 1894.

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