John Frederick Kensett (American, 1816–1872)
Oil on canvas
28 x 41 1/8 in. (71.1 x 104.5 cm)
Gift of Thomas Kensett, 1874 (74.3)
The group of paintings called "The Last Summer's Work," left behind in Kensett's summer studio at Darien, Connecticut, at his death in December 1872, was the subject of great wonder and fascination among the artist's admirers, friends, and eulogists who gathered in tribute to him later that month at the Century Club. Their wonder was a factor partly of sheer novelty, for none of the works had been seen before, and as a body they were interpreted to be Kensett's ultimate testament of his vision and sensibility. To the assembled, however, none of those pictures better represented the absolute expression of the artist's distilling and suggestive eye than this, in which he eliminated any evidence of landfall but, in a way reminiscent of few artists but J. M. W. Turner, introduced a radiant sun suspended above the open ocean. "It is pure light and water, a bridal of the sea and sky," averred one of the eulogists, and asked, "Is it presumption in a poor novice in art like me, to say that this is a great picture?"