Lot 69
  • 69

John Frederick Kensett

400,000 - 600,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • John Frederick Kensett
  • Evening on the Hudson
  • signed with initials JFK and dated 1860. (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 28 by 45 inches
  • (71.1 by 114.3 cm)


The artist
(probably) William T. Walters, Baltimore Maryland, acquired from the above, 1860
[With]Samuel Putnam Avery, New York, circa 1860s
Jennings Family, New York, acquired from the above ,circa 1873
Mr. and Mrs. Frederick B. Jennings, New York, circa 1873
Mr. Percy Hall Jennings, New York (their son)
Elizabeth J. Howell, New York (his daughter)
Private collection, New Jersey (by descent)
[With]Spanierman Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above with funds from Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams, 1987


Saratoga Springs, New York, Hathorn Gallery, Skidmore College, John Frederick Kensett: A Retrospective Exhibition, April-May 1987, n.p.
Paris, France, American Embassy, Art in Embassies Program, 1994-1997


Robert Merritt, "Purchase of Kensett Painting Enhances Museum Collection," Richmond Times Dispatch, May 22, 1987
William M.S. Rasmussen, "A Journey into the American Paradise: John Frederick Kensett's 'Evening on the Hudson'," Arts in Virginia, 1988, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 14-29, illustrated


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes, Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work has been well restored and is generally in very good condition. The canvas has a non-wax lining. The texture of the original paint is still attractive. The paint layer is cleaned, retouched and varnished. Notably, there is no staining or weave interference in the sky or water, which is highly unusual for a large luminous work from this period. The retouches are almost all confined to small cracks and losses around the four edges. Under ultraviolet light, one can see some retouches to cracking across the top edge, in the sky along the right and left sides, and in the water in a few spots on the bottom edge. In the body of the painting, there are no retouches except to a few small cracks beneath the flying duck in the lower center and in the upper center sky. There are no retouches in the trees and mountains on the far side of the lake. The translucent area of color in the lower right is original to the artist, and is not any damage or weakness.
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

Born into a family of engravers, John Frederick Kensett developed his skills as a painter by studying the works of the Old Masters in Europe alongside prominent American artists such as fellow Hudson River School painter Asher B. Durand. Upon his untimely death in 1872 at the age of fifty-six, Kensett was considered one of the most illustrious and respected artists of his generation. Today, Kensett is regarded as the master of Luminism among American landscape painters.  First coined in 1954 by John I. Baur, the term "luminism" was meant to distinguish a subsect of Hudson River School artists, including Kensett, Francis Silva, and Martin Johnson Heade, among others, for their particularly American consciousness of the effects of light and atmosphere. Barbara Novak, whose seminal publication American Painting of the 19th Century broke ground in the discussion of luminism, stated that the movement fostered "some of the nineteenth century's most profound thoughts on nature," offering the spectator "an irresistible invitation in terms of empathy" which "brought the nineteenth century as close as it could come to silence and void."  She continued, "Luminist light tends to be cool, not hot, hard not soft, palpable rather than fluid, planar rather than atmospherically diffuse.  Luminist light radiates, gleams, and suffuses on a different frequency than atmospheric light...Air cannot circulate between the particles of matter that comprise luminist light" (as quoted in Nature and Culture, London, 1980, pp. 18, 29).   

For Kensett there was no setting more inspiring than the Hudson River.  Painted in 1860, Evening on the Hudson displays the refined elegance and great technical ability of this celebrated artist. The special radiance of light throughout the work; still water and tranquility distributed throughout suggest a sense of unity in nature. William M.S. Rasmussen writes, “Evening on the Hudson is a major example of the artist’s subtle, delicate, and poetic perception of nature and his fundamental confidence in its divine importance. At the time he produced the painting, Frederick Kensett was a mature artist and one of the leading painters in America” (“A Journey into the American Paradise: John Frederick Kensett's ‘Evening on the Hudson'," Arts in Virginia, vol. 28, 1988, [[/ 14-29).

This painting will be included in the forthcoming John Frederick Kensett catalogue raisonné being prepared under the direction of Dr. John Driscoll.