Autumn: Quick Bite

Autumn is on the horizon and today on Museum Quick Bites we’re celebrating this crisp, colorful season with Sunny Autumn Day (1892) by George Inness. On display at the Cleveland Museum of Art, this gorgeous painting highlights Inness’ spiritual relationship with nature. Let’s roll the clock back to the 1890s and take a quick tour.

Sunny Autumn Day (1892) by George Inness, Cleveland Museum of Art

Beginning at the top, note the puffy white clouds Inness cast against a deep blue sky. Truffula-like trees with their tall spindly trunks and poufs of autumn leaves, add a splash of color to the canvas. The red-leafed tree’s curvy trunk is a quirky and delightful detail!

Close-Ups of Sunny Autumn Day (1892) by George Inness, Cleveland Museum of Art

In the distance, a group of buildings, possibly Inness’ Montclair home, is framed by the trees. Check out the play of light and shadow on the grassy field. On the far left, what appear to be livestock graze in the sun. In the foreground, Inness has sprinkled delicate wildflowers in the tall grass.

More Close-Ups of Sunny Autumn Day (1892) by George Inness, Cleveland Museum of Art

Overall, Sunny Autumn Day is a visual feast, and Inness’ wispy style give this painting a tranquil, relaxed vibe. Take a deep breath in and enjoy!

[An artwork’s] aim is not to instruct, not to edify, but to awaken an emotion.

George Inness (1825-1894)

Fun Arty Fact #1: Truffulas are the colorful poufy trees cut down by the Once-ler in Dr. Seuss’, The LoraxClick here to learn more about Truffulas and The Lorax, courtesy of Brightly Storytime.

Truffula Trees by Pixy

Artist’s Brief Background: George Inness (1825-1894) was born in Newburgh, New York, the fifth of thirteen children. His parents, Clarissa Baldwin and John Williams Inness, owned a farm and grocery store. Young George was a sickly child and suffered from epilepsy, thus he did not pursue a formal education. Inness’ father wanted him to take over the family business, but instead, Inness pursued his passion for art. In his early teens, he took private art lessons and worked as a map engraver.

Left: George Inness by George Healy (1871) National Portrait Gallery, Wikimedia Commons

Right: Crossing the Ford (1848) by George Inness, Art Institute of Chicago

In 1843, at the age of 18, Inness was accepted into the National Academy of Design in New York City. Within a year, he participated in his first exhibition and subsequently opened his own private art studio. In 1849, Inness married Delia Miller, but she died several months later. The following year, Inness married Elizabeth Abigail Hart (1833-1903) and the couple went on to have six children.

Left: Saint Peter’s Seen from the Campagna (c1850) by George Inness, Detroit Institute of Arts

Right: The Goat Herder (1853) by George Inness, WikiArt

In the 1850s, the Innesses went on a Grand Tour of Europe and throughout the next two decades traveled back and forth between Europe and the United States. They lived in Rome for several years, as well as Normandy. During this time, Inness was inspired by a variety of artists and styles, including the Old Masters, French Realism, Barbizon landscape painting, and most notably the philosophy and writings of Swedish theologian, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). In 1874, Inness attended the first Exhibition of the Impressionists in Paris, but he left unimpressed with their radical new style, calling it a “sham” and “passing fad”.

Fun Arty Fact #2: Inness was a staunch abolitionist and in the 1860s tried to enlist in the Union Army during the US Civil War. Because of his poor health, he failed the medical exam. During this time he worked as a drawing teacher and taught such notable students as Louis Comfort Tiffany. To learn more, click on this Museum Bites: Cutting Edge link.

Tiffany Lamp (c1902), Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Photo by Fopseh

Left: Sunset (c1865) by George Inness, WikiArt

Right: Autumn Oaks (c1878) by George Inness, Metropolitan Museum of Art

In 1885, the Innesses settled in Montclair, New Jersey. Many of Inness’ later paintings feature their home and the surrounding landscape. The couple continued to travel to Europe, but in 1894, Inness suffered a fatal heart attack while in Scotland. According to his son, Inness was watching the sunset when he collapsed and died. Inness’ final words were, “Oh, how beautiful!” He was 69 years old.

Left: George Inness in His Studio (1890) Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Right: Home at Montclair (1892) by George Inness, Clark Museum

Over the course of his 50+-year career, George Inness, produced over 1,000 works of art. At the time of his death, he was considered the Father of American Landscape Painting. Click on this George Inness link, courtesy of, to view more of his stunning work.

That wraps up our ramble through George Inness’, Sunny Autumn Day. I’ll be back next week with more Museum Quick Bites. Until then, be safe, be kind, and take care 🙂

Cover photo by cjverb (2012).


Brightly Storytime: The Lorax
Britannica: Emanuel Swedenborg
Cleveland Museum of Art: Sunny Autumn Day (1892) by George Inness
Cleveland Museum of Art: George Inness Collection
Museum Bites: Cutting Edge
TheArtStory: George Inness
The Clark Art Institute: Home at Montclair (1892) by George Inness
WikiArt: George Inness

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