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George Inness (1825—1894)

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William Lamb Picknell


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Painter. Interested primarily in landscapes, he also created figural images. He worked mostly in France and along the Massachusetts coast north of Boston. In scenes recording conditions of light ranging from glaring sunlight to silvery haze, he generally preferred solidly built pictorial structure and well-defined forms, often rendered with richly scumbled and textured paint. Limited passages in some late paintings suggest an interest in contemporary impressionists' broken-color technique. A Vermont native, he was born in Hinesburg but moved as a small child to North Springfield. In Boston from 1867, he worked in a frame shop before leaving for Europe in 1872. After two years in Rome with George Inness, he studied in Paris with Jean-Léon Gérôme during the winter of 1874–75. The previous summer he had first visited Pont-Aven, where he then returned for several years. Here in Brittany, Robert Wylie provided additional informal training. During the 1880s Picknell lived primarily in Waltham, Massachusetts, but traveled often. He spent two winters in England and also visited Florida and California. During summers he regularly painted at Cape Ann, in Annisquam, a seaside village that was beginning to attract artists in considerable numbers. Again abroad through most of the 1890s, he resided at Moret-sur-Loing, on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau, but often spent winters in the south of France. His health failing, he returned to Massachusetts during the summer of 1897 and died at Marblehead. Road to Concarneau (Corcoran Gallery, 1880), which made his reputation when shown at the Paris Salon, remains his best-known work. Constructed along the road's deep perspective into flat terrain, it exemplifies particularly well Picknell's interest in rendering the intense sun of mid-summer. Suggesting his versatility, On the Borders of the Marsh (Pennsylvania Academy), a very different painting of the same year, represents a mode much closer to Barbizon intimacy. Here, a flattened screen of trees almost entirely constrains the eye to a shallow foreground. The painting's pearly light and subdued color harmonies effectively evoke the unglamorous damp chill of late winter or early spring. His brother, painter George W. Picknell (1864–1943), also specialized in landscapes. Born in North Springfield, Vermont, he studied in Paris and subsequently worked in France for a number of years. In 1912 he settled permanently in Silvermine, Connecticut, an artists' colony near New Canaan. His later work focused on local scenery.

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