John Frederick Kensett painted subtle and poetic depictions of nature that revealed his belief in the divine qualities of the natural world. The son of a Connecticut engraver, Kensett honed his mastery of detail and ability to create subtle tonality by working as an engraver of bank notes prior to pursuing landscape painting. Like so many of his contemporaries, Kensett turned to the vast beauty of the American landscape for inspiration and subject matter after years of study in Europe.
National Museum of American Art (CD-ROM) (New York and Washington D.C.: MacMillan Digital in cooperation with the National Museum of American Art, 1996)
As a boy, John Frederick Kensett apprenticed in his father’s engraving shop. He worked as an engraver in New Haven and New York for several years but was frustrated with his profession and truly wanted to be a painter. In the 1840s he spent seven years in England, France, and Italy “feasting on the glorious works of the Old Masters.” After his return to America, he joined several influential art clubs and helped organize the 1864 Metropolitan Fair. In 1870 he became a founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kensett had a large circle of artist friends and was known for his active social life and love of whisky and cigars. He died of pneumonia in 1872 after diving into freezing water to retrieve the body of a woman who had fallen from her coach and drowned. (Driscoll and Howat, John Frederick Kensett, An American Master, 1985)