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George Inness in Italy

February 19–May 15, 2011

A canonical figure in American painting, George Inness (1825–1894) is widely admired as the pioneer of the evocative aesthetic known as Tonalism, which is distinguished by soft focus and diaphanous layers of paint. This is the first exhibition to examine the artist's two Italian sojourns (1851–52 and 1870–74) and their formative impact on his work. Italy—its art and its landscape—offered Inness a font of inspiration as he developed his own unique artistic vision.

George Inness in Italy presents ten oil paintings surveying Inness's Italian subjects dating from 1850 to 1879. A highlight of the exhibition is Twilight on the Campagna (c. 1851), Inness's first major work completed in Italy. Recently conserved, the painting has not been on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1952. Its reemergence and restoration—precipitated by a comprehensive publication, or catalogue raisonné, of Inness's entire body of work issued in 2007—constitutes a significant rediscovery.

Inness enjoyed his most productive years during his second stay in Italy. His paintings sold well, both as mementos of Italy for affluent American travelers and as progressive stylistic experiments for leading collectors of American landscape painting. Although Inness returned to the United States in 1874, he continued to paint Italian compositions, honing the Tonalist aesthetic that began with his first trip to Italy in 1851. With Twilight on the Campagna as its anchor, George Inness in Italy charts this innovative artist's development as he formed, interpreted, and later remembered his diverse and vivid impressions of Italy.

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This exhibition is organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and its Center for American Art. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue are made possible by grants from The Mr. & Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, the Henry Luce Foundation, and the Terra Foundation for American Art, and by a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. Frank Martucci.


Mark Mitchell, Associate Curator and Manager, Center for American Art

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