American, (1823-1900)
On the Susquehanna River
oil on canvas
signed and dated lower right "J.F. Cropsey 1891"

  • Notes: This work is listed in the catalogue raisonné of the works of Jasper Francis Cropsey by the Newington-Cropsey Foundation, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.
    Jasper Cropsey, "America's Painter of Autumn," returned to the Susquehanna Valley several times in his long career.1 Similar to his famed Hudson River and Greenwood Lake paintings, the evolution of Cropsey's style from a natural sense of Luminism to a less rigid aesthetic may be charted by his Susquehanna paintings.

    It was Cropsey himself who, writing for The Crayon in 1855, may have first used the term "luminous" when describing an approach to painting:

    Of all the gifts of the Creator—few are more beautiful, and less heeded, than the sky…here we have first the canopy of blue; not opaque, hard and flat, as many artists conceive it and picture patrons accept it; but a luminous, palpitating air, in which the eye can penetrate infinitely deep, and yet find depth.2

    Cropsey's earliest paintings of the Susquehanna date from the late 1850s, with an important example being 1859's Autumn on the Susquehanna. In that painting, the viewer is brought close to the river and afforded a more direct experience with the surrounding nature.

    As Peter Birmingham discusses, Cropsey often experimented with where to locate his audience's point of view. In this view, On the Susquehanna River, Cropsey pulls the viewpoint back to provide a wider panorama, placing it closer to the same vertical plane as his trademark "spotlight" illumination.3 The concentrated light in the middle distance allows the autumnal palette to shine. Instead of a gauzy (if appealing) haze, the colors for which Cropsey became so famous more highly keyed and distinguishable. As a result, the sky, alive with the pink reflections of the setting sun, is one of Cropsey's most evocative.

    William Talbot's comments on 1897's Sunset Over the Palisades may be applied to On the Susquehanna: "Cropsey never ceased to appreciate the drama of nature. The contrast here between the flaming clouds and shadowed gray cliffs has been achieved with a freedom of the brush which recalls his most lyrical moments."4
    1 Peter Birmingham, Jasper F. Cropsey: 1823-1900, exhibition catalog, (College Park: University of Maryland Art Gallery, 1968), p. i.
    2 Ibid., p. 21.
    3 Ibid., p. 24.
    4 William S. Talbott, Jasper F. Cropsey: 1823-1900, exhibition catalog, (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1970), p. 109.
    Framed dimensions: 17 x 25 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches

    tags: oil painting, listed artist, landscape, 19th century, Luminist, Luminism
  • Provenance: Estate of Edward Morgan, John's Island, South Carolina, ca. 1959; Private Collection, New York; Shannon's, Milford, Connecticut, October 28, 2010, lot 35; Private Collection, New York.
  • Dimensions: 12 x 20 inches
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Condition: excellent overall condition, unlined canvas, a few tiny dots of restoration in the sky

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by Shannon's
October 28, 2021 6:00 PM EDT
Milford, CT, US

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