Sunset Sky, ca. 1872
John Frederick Kensett (American, 1816–1872)
Oil on canvas; 20 x 32 in. (50.8 x 81.3 cm)
Gift of Thomas Kensett, 1874 (74.30)
This lovingly wrought study, perhaps set down in direct witness but more likely freshly recollected, was never developed into a finished painting, but became the obvious source of the artist's Sunset. Along with Sunset on the Sea and a few other pictures of his late career, Kensett uncharacteristically indulged a warm, highly saturated palette at variance with the pearly gray tonality of his signature style. At the acme of an enviously successful career and in the relative privacy of his island studio in Long Island Sound, Kensett may well have felt a license that he had not previously to broaden, in his typically measured terms, his aesthetic vocabulary—here to include the richly chromatic effects of J. M. W. Turner or even those that marked the pictures of his colleagues Frederic E. Church and Sanford R. Gifford.