George Inness (American, 1825–1894)
Watercolor, gouache, and graphite on off–white wove paper; 6 13/16 x 10 5/16 in. (17.3 x 26.2 cm)
Bequest of Susan Dwight Bliss, 1966 (67.55.145)
The few watercolors that Inness created served primarily as studies for oil paintings. That these works remained in the collections of the artists’ descendents reinforces their identity as private instruments and suggests that Inness never intended to offer them for sale. However, his engagement with watercolor flourished during his 1870–74 stay in Italy, where he had gone primarily to create marketable paintings. While studying the landscapes surrounding Perugia and Rome, and during a trip to Venice in 1873, he produced at least twenty-five watercolors. He would often begin with a fairly careful study of the setting in pen or pencil and then add tonal effects in watercolor and gouache. Michael Quick has identified Across the Campagna as “a view from near the coast, across the Campagna or Pontine marshes,” that is, in the Lazio region, south of Rome. Neighboring sites that Inness often painted during this period include Lake Albano, Lake Nemi, and Castel Gandolfo. Here, however, Inness avoided familiar landmarks. The nearly abstract division of terrain into rectangular swatches of verdant foreground and pale blue sky perfectly captures the placid tenor of the isolated terrain. The addition of a thin film of pale pink above the horizon adds a warm counterpart to the otherwise cool tonalities of the setting. Inness finished the work with a few light graphite lines to demarcate points of visual interest: a building at the horizon on the left and a stand of pine trees at the right. For its refinement and elegiac tenor, Across the Campagna presages some of the finest works from Inness’ renowned late landscape period, notably The Lone Farm, Nantucket (1892), in the Art Institute of Chicago.