John Frederick Kensett (American, 1816–1872)
Oil on canvas
18 x 36 in. (45.7 x 91.4 cm)
Gift of Thomas Kensett, 1874 (74.29)
At once amplifying and simplifying a pictorial design the artist first broached in his Shrewsbury River, New Jersey, compositions of the 1850s, Eaton's Neck is unusual if not unique in Kensett's oeuvre for its Long Island subject. On the other hand, recording the site, on Long Island's north shore near Huntington in Suffolk County, would have required perhaps an hour's sail or less across the Long Island Sound from Kensett's studio off Darien, Connecticut. Like virtually all the paintings found in the studio at the artist's death in 1872, Eaton's Neck is unsigned and undated, and its state of completion is, at best, ambiguous. Kensett, for instance, worked the shoreline foliage into a state of finish comparable to works that he signed and sold, but the apparent sailboats punctuating the distant horizon are plotted without being fully articulated, as they are in finished works. Still, given the reductive character of almost all Kensett's late paintings, this synthesis of uninflected land, water, and sky engages the spectator equally with, if not more than, any in the same gallery by the artist or his Hudson River School colleagues.