biography of John Frederick KENSETT (1816-1872)

Birth place: Cheshire, CT

Addresses: New Haven, 1829-35; NYC, 1835-c.1838; Albany, c.1838-40; NYC, 1848-on

Profession: Landscape painter, engraver

Studied: engraving with his father Thomas Kensett; apprenticed to engraver Peter Maverick in NYC, 1829; engraver with Daggett & Ely in New Haven, 1829-35 (Alfred Daggett was his uncle); England, France, Germany, and Italy, 1840-48

Exhibited: NAD, 1830-60, 1861-73; Brooklyn AA, 1861-84; PAFA, 1852-69 (6 times); Worcester AM; Boston AC, 1874-76; LACMA; MMA, 1986 (retrospective)

Member: NA,1849; Century Assoc.; Artists' Fund Soc. (founder); MMA (founder, 1871); Sketch Club; Union Lg. Club.

Work: MMA (collection of 38 paintings, including a group of sketches made in Long Island during the summer of 1872); NYHS; BMFA; AIC; St. Louis AM; Wellesley College Mus.; Century Assoc.; Shelburne (VT) Mus.; Brooklyn Mus.

Comments: He began his career as a banknote engraver, but around 1838 his friend John W. Casilear encouraged him to pursue painting. Kensett furthered his knowledge of painting during a long sojourn in Europe, which began in 1840 in the company of Casilear, Asher B. Durand, and T. P. Rossiter. Over the next seven years, Kensett visited and painted in Paris, England (1843), Germany, Switzerland, and Italy (living in Rome for two years). He returned to the U.S. in 1847 and by the mid-1850s had become one of the leading painters of the Hudson River School. By the 1860s Kensett reached the height of his career as a Luminist painter of quiet, atmospheric landscapes and New England coastal views. He also made many painting trips to the mountains of New York and northern New England. In 1854, he traveled up the Mississippi River; c.1856 he traveled up the Missouri River; and in 1866 and 1870 he traveled to Colorado. In 1872, he died (at age 56) of pneumonia after trying to recover the body of a woman from an ocean inlet where she had drowned. Even though he was greatly successful in his own time, he was so prolific that more than 600 works were left in his studio upon his death.

Sources: G&W; Cowdrey, The Return of John Frederick Kensett," illus.; DAB; Clement and Hutton; Tuckerman; Karolik Cat.; Cowdrey, NAD; Cowdrey, AA & AAU; Rutledge, PA; Rutledge, MHS; Swan, BA; Sweet, Hudson River School; obit., N.Y. Tribune, Dec. 16, 1872. More recently, see Baigell, Dictionary; P & H Samuels; Muller, Paintings and Drawings at the Shelburne Museum, 85 (w/repro.); Rbt. Workman, The Eden of America (RISD, 1986, p.26)"