Lot 99
  • 99

George Inness 1825 - 1894

500,000 - 700,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • George Inness
  • Leeds, New York
  • signed Geo Inness and dated 1867 (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 22 1/8 by 30 1/8 inches
  • (56.2 by 76.5 cm)


Private Collection, Belmont Hill, Massachusetts, by 1932
Vose Galleries, Boston, Massachusetts, 1991 (acquired from the above)
Roland F. Pineault Fine Arts, Holyoke, Massachusetts, 1991
Jordan-Volpe Gallery, New York, 1992 (acquired from the above)
Vance Jordan Fine Art, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1998


New York, Jordan-Volpe Gallery, American Selections, 1850-1950, 1992, p. 86, illustrated p. 87


Michael Quick, George Inness: A Catalogue Raisonné, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 2007, vol. 1, no. 297, pp. 280-81, illustrated p. 280


This work is in good condition. The canvas is lined. There is very subtle craquelure throughout and frame abrasion at the edges. Under UV: there are thin lines of inpainting to craquelure in the sky and right side of the hill, an area of touchups at the lower center above and possibly in the hay wagon, and inpainting to frame abrasion along the bottom edge.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

George Inness painted Leeds, New York in 1867, during a critical decade in his career, one in which he diverged from his Hudson River School peers to embrace a more modern aesthetic. This seminal panting possesses all of the tenants of approach and technique that the artist would continue to develop throughout his career.  This shift was noted by the critics and Michael Quick writes, “During the 1860s Inness began to come into his own, painting with a new authority and enjoying greatly increased press coverage, in which he was ranked among the leading American landscape painters” (George Inness: A Catalogue Raisonné, Volume One, New Brunswick, New Jersey and London, 2007, p. 161).

Inness’ aim in his art was, “to perceive the Divine in nature and to communicate that feeling through the language of landscape” (Ibid., p. 175).  Thus he did not subscribe to a mere transcription of nature, but sought to go beyond the surface to convey both the personal experience and to capture the underlying spirit of a place.  He stated in 1863, “the highest beauty and truest value of the landscape painting are the sentiment and feeling which flow from the mind and heart of the artist” (quoted in Ibid., p. 175).  Although he had always felt a strong connection to nature, this intensified during the 1860s.  It was around the time that he painted Leeds, New York that Inness, influenced by fellow artist William Page, converted to the Swedenborgian faith into which he was baptized the following year.  Michael Quick writes, “This reorientation of his beliefs gave Inness the concept of a more contemplative perception of the Divine in nature.  By itself, the conversion had a transforming effect upon Inness’ approach to landscape” (Ibid., p. 176).

Page also exerted influence on Inness’ technique with his theory that a “painting should be kept mainly within the range of the middle tint, with extremes of either light or dark used sparingly… Having established equilibrium within a painting through the adherence to the middle tint and also through systems of compositional balance, Page introduced some tension through the dynamic struggle between layers of different colors.  By glazing a color over a markedly different, often complementary one, Page obtained the lifelike process of one color asserting itself through the color layer on top and the color on top, in turn, suppressing the color beneath” (Ibid., pp. 176-77).  Although Inness had some differing of opinion with Page as to what “middle tint” was, he employed the technique of layering colors in a number of works throughout the remainder of his career including Leeds, New York, where it is particularly apparent in the middle ground and hills.  Michael Quick comments of the present work, “Being almost entirely a distant landscape, this picture is painted softly and freely, with the atmospherically muted color produced by painting opposite colors upon colors, most often a purplish color upon green” (Ibid., p. 281).

This imbues the scene with a soft haziness and sense of suppressed energy that represents a deviation from the more formulaic paintings of Inness’ East Coast peers. “In their motifs and tonal balance, Inness’s paintings of the late 1860s superficially look similar to those of his Hudson River school contemporaries. However, much of the technique that Inness learned from Page carried over into this period in New York, especially with regard to the soft painting of thin color upon color in neutral distant passages or shadows… Inness generally continued Page’s method of keeping almost all of the area below the horizon within the middle value range, but he began to use paint with more body that could hold more color intensity” (Ibid., pp. 185, 187).  In Leeds, New York, Inness does not wholly follow Page’s prescription, asserting himself in the rich variants of greens punctuated by orange in the foreground.  These areas of more clearly articulated color juxtaposed with the muted layered tones of the middle-ground create a complex and subtly animated composition.

In the present work, there is an emphasis on harmony, both tonal and spiritual.  Inness’ use of light and atmosphere to suggest mood and meaning is characteristic of his work from the period.  The composition and technique of this tranquil scene convey a sense of hope, prosperity and peace in the wake of the Civil War. Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., writes: “In all of the paintings of the 1860’s, nature is not merely depicted straightfowardly, but is made articulate… The result is that one is made aware of the spiritual significance of nature through the way in which its visible forms and effects reflect some higher power” (George Inness, London, 1971, p. 38). Leeds, New York is a testament to Inness’ belief that, “The true end in Art is not to imitate a fixed material condition, but to represent a living motion.  The intelligence to be conveyed by it is not of an outer fact, but of an inner life” (quoted in Adrienne Baxter Bell, George Inness and the Visionary Landscape, New York, 2003, p. 29).  More modern and daring than his contemporaries, the primary goal of Inness' art presages the work of a number of American modern and abstract expressionist artists.