MG 5922

Lakes of Killarney, Oil on board, 1856

This oil on board painting, entitled Lakes of Killarney, was completed by American Romantic Landscape painter and engraver John Frederick Kensett in 1856. A member of the second generation of the Hudson River School of artists, Kensett’s signature works are landscape paintings of New England and New York State, whose clear light and serene surfaces celebrate the transcendental qualities of nature, and are associated with Luminism. Luminism is an American landscape painting style of the 1850s – 1870s, characterized by the effects of light in landscapes and conveyed through aerial perspective and the concealing of visible brushstrokes. Luminist landscapes emphasize tranquility, and often depict calm, reflective water and a soft, hazy sky. The term itself was introduced by mid-20th-century art historians to describe the 19th-century American painting style that developed as an offshoot of the second-generation Hudson River school. 

Kensett's early work owed much to the influence of his slightly older contemporary Thomas Cole, but was from the outset distinguished by a preference for cooler colors and an interest in less dramatic topography, favoring restraint in both palette and composition. Such tendencies can be observed in Lakes of Killarney, in which the land descends with a graceful sweep from a great height to the broad and level body of water. The composition is furnished it with a charming variety of scenery, ranging from the pastoral-like foreground to the inconspicuous mountain in the distance.