George Inness: A Master of Atmosphere

Inness Landscape

With a similar style to, but a lot more recognition than Thomas Aquinas Daly, George Inness falls under my category of Favourite Painters. Why? Because it’s all about atmosphere. Now, those of you who read my post about Thomas Aquinas Daly should be experts on atmosphere and composition, and the paintings that you see here on Inness should be screaming with similar technique.

Inness was a 19th Century painter, born in New York State and died in Scotland. He painted vast portraits of the beauty of the American landscape and his more mature works helped to define the Tonalist movement. Tonalism was a late 19th century artistic (American) movement that was part of the big Impressionist Scheme, where artists used fog, either grey or with a colour, to give a feeling or emotion, or even tone to a painting.
Inness Painting
So as we look at Inness’ works, we can keep in mind this Tonalist movement and how he influenced it (and how Tonalism plays into greater Impressionism, which favours the feeling of an experience that the painting is trying to describe over the photographic realism and detail traditionally preferred). Inness often heavily exaggerated colours, or skewed colour schemes to portray idyllic landscapes. This was a large factor in why he was so popular with expansionists.

Inness Painting
If you look at the painting I’ve placed right above this text, then you can see this portrayed perfectly. The sky is an unnatural grapefruit red, the greens of the ground masked by umber browns, and what greens are shown are deeply red. The trees are vague, nebulous suggestions of dark trees with backlighting. But we, as observers, perceive it as a sunset. A soft, warm sunset. InnessĀ  manipulates our perception of the landscape. In a good way.

Inness Painting


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