Overview

Rather than celebrating nature in the tradition of the Hudson River School, George Inness' Lackawanna Valley seems to commemorate the onset of America's industrial age. While documenting the achievements of the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad, Inness has also created a topographically convincing view of Scranton, Pennsylvania. The artist took relatively few liberties with his composition, but in compliance with the wishes of his corporate patron, he intentionally exaggerated the prominence of the railroad's yet-to-be-completed roundhouse. His inclusion of numerous tree stumps in the picture's foreground, although accurate, lends an important note of ambiguity to the work.

Whether it is read as an enthusiastic affirmation of technology or as a belated lament for a rapidly vanishing wilderness, this painting exemplifies a crucial philosophical dilemma that confronted many Americans in the 1850s; expansion inevitably necessitated the widespread destruction of unspoiled nature, itself a still-powerful symbol of the nation's greatness. Although it was initially commissioned as an homage to the machine, Inness' Lackawanna Valley nevertheless serves as a poignant pictorial reminder of the ephemeral nature of the American Dream.

Inscription

lower left: G. Inness

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Commissioned c. 1856 by the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad, Scranton, Pennsylvania.[1] The artist, from 1891; by inheritance 1894 to his daughter, Mrs. Jonathan Scott Hartley, New York; (her sale, American Art Association, New York, 24 March 1927, no. 76, as The First Roundhouse of the D. L. and W. R. R. at Scranton); (Henry Schultheis Co., New York); (sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 24 February 1938, no. 54, as The First Roundhouse of the D.L. & W. Railroad, Scranton, Pennsylvania); (Henry Schultheis Co., New York);[2] sold 24 May 1944 to (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); purchased February 1945 by Millicent Rogers [Mrs. Huttleson Rogers, 1902-1953], Washington, D.C.;[3] gift 1945 to NGA.[4]

Exhibition History

1946
American Painting from the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day, Tate Gallery, London, 1946, 15, no. 120.
1946
George Inness: An American Landscape Painter 1825-1894, George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, Springfield, Massachusetts; The Brooklyn Museum; Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey, 1946, no. 5, pl. 5.
1949
The Railroad in Painting, Dayton Art Institute, Ohio, 1949, no. 33, repro.
1950
American Processional, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1950, 245, no. 203, repro. 259.
1965
The Paintings of George Inness, University Art Museum, University of Texas, Austin, 1965-1966, 14-15, no. 8, repro. 7.
1970
Nineteenth-Century America: Paintings and Sculpture, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1970, no. 95, repro.
1970
The American Scene 1820-1900, Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, 1970, 60, no. 27, repro. 60.
1971
Wilderness, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1971, no. 114 (organized by the National Endowment for the Arts).
1980
American Light: The Luminist Movement, 1850-1875, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980, 150, fig. 181.
1981
The Railroad in the American Landscape: 1850-1950, The Wellesley College Museum, Massachusetts, 1981, 79, no. 8, repro. 78 and cover.
1985
George Inness, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1985-1986, 74, 76, repro. 75.
1988
The Pastoral Landscape: The Modern Vision, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 1988-1989, no. 130, fig. 201.
1990
Northeastern Pennsylvania in Art: A Century of Tradition, Everhart Museum, Scranton, Pennsylvania, 1990, unpaginated brochure, repro.
1991
Loan for display with permanent collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1991-1992.
2008
The Railway: Art in the Age of Steam, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, 2008-2009, no. 39, repro.
2011
The Great American Hall of Wonders: Art, Science, and Invention in the Nineteenth Century, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., 2011-2012, fig. 89.

Bibliography

1894
"His Art, His Religion." New York Herald (12 August 1894).
1917
Inness, George, Jr. Life, Art and Letters of George Inness. New York, 1917: 108, 111.
1927
"Inness Paintings to be Sold at American Art." Art News 25 (12 March 1927): 11, repro.
1936
"George Inness-Painter." The Index of Twentieth Century Artists 4 (December 1936): 360.
1944
Young, Kathryn. "D. L. & W. president demanded more trains; artist Inness said no-but had to eat." Printer's Ink 207 (30 June 1944): 18, repro.
1945
"The National Gallery's First Inness." Antiques 48 (August 1945): 96, 98, repro.
1946
McCausland, Elizabeth. George Inness: An American Landscape Painter, 1825-1894. Exh. cat. George Walker Vincent Smith Art Mus., Springfield; The Brooklyn Mus.; Montclair Art Mus., New Jersey. Springfield, Mass., 1946: 4, 21, 24, 28, 40, 68, repro. 11.
1948
Born, Wolfgang. American Landscape Painting. New Haven, 1948: 156-159, repro. 158.
1948
Walker, John. "American Masters in the National Gallery of Art." National Geographic Magazine 94 (September 1948): 298, repro. 316.
1949
Larkin, Oliver W. Art and Life in America. New York, 1949: 213.
1951
Walker, John. Paintings from America. Harmondsworth, England, 1951: 23-24, 44, pl. 22.
1952
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 174, color repro.
1957
Jenson, Oliver. "Farwell to Steam." American Heritage 9 (December 1957): 66, repro.
1957
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 152.
1959
Bouton, Margaret. American Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1959 (Booklet Number One in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 6, 24, repro. 25.
1960
The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War. New York, 1960: repro. 14.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 284, repro.
1964
Marx, Leo. The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America. New York, 1964: 220-221, pl. 2.
1965
Ireland, LeRoy. The Works of George Inness: An Illustrated Catalogue Raisonné. Austin, 1965: 28, repro.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:482, color repro.
1966
Green, Samuel M. American Art. New York, 1966: 258, repro. 259.
1966
Neumeyer, Alfred. "George Inness." In Kindlers Malerei Lexikon, edited by Germain Bazin, et al. 6 vols. Zürich, 1964-1971. Zürich, 1966: 3:392, repro.
1966
The Paintings of George Inness. Exh. cat. University of Texas Art Museum, Austin, 1966: 14-15, repro. 7.
1967
Callow, James T. Kindred Spirits: Knickerbocker Writers and American Artists, 1807-1855. Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1967: 127.
1967
Rinhart, Floyd, and Marion Rinhart. American Daguerreian Art. New York, 1967: 61, repro. 74.
1970
American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 72, repro.
1970
Cikovsky, Nicolai, Jr. "George Inness and the Hudson River School: The Lackawanna Valley." The American Art Journal 2 (Fall 1970): 36-57, repro.
1970
Flexner, James Thomas. Nineteenth Century American Painting. New York, 1970: repro. 174.
1971
Campbell, William P. "The American Heritage at the National Gallery of Art." The Connoisseur 178 (December 1971): 270.
1971
Cikovsky, Nicolai, Jr. George Inness. New York, 1971: 30, fig. 11.
1971
Valsecchi, Marco. Landscape Painting of the Nineteenth Century. Greenwich, Connecticut, 1971: 318, pl. 277.
1972
Haber, Francine. "American Mythologies in Painting. Part III: Discovering the New Landscape of Technology." Arts Magazine 46 (February 1972): 32-33, repro. 33.
1973
Glubock, Shirley. The Art of America from Jackson to Lincoln. New York, 1973: 8, repro.
1973
Werner, Alfred. Inness Landscapes. New York, 1973: 12, 18, 20, 24, repro. 25.
1973
Wilmerding, John, ed. The Genius of American Painting. New York and London, 1973: 131, repro. 137.
1975
Bermingham, Peter. American Art in the Barbizon Mood. Washington, 1975: 27-28, 100, fig. 19.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 548, repro. 549.
1976
Kasson, John F. Civilizing the Machine: Technology and Republican Values in America 1776-1900. New York, 1976: 176-177, 179, repro. 173.
1976
McShine, Kynaston, ed. The Natural Paradise: Painting in America 1800-1950. New York, 1976: repro. 147.
1976
Wilmerding, John. American Art. Harmondsworth, England, and New York, 1976: 152-153, 259, pl. 185.
1977
Brown, Milton W. American Art to 1900. New York, 1977: 342.
1977
Cikovsky, Nicolai, Jr. The Life and Works of George Inness. New York, 1977: 176-177, fig. 16.
1978
Arkelian, Marjorie Dakin, and George Neubert. George Inness Landscapes: His Signature Years, 1884-1894. Exh. cat. Oakland Museum of Art. Oakland, California, 1978: 14-15, repro. 14.
1979
Cikovsky, Nicolai, Jr. "'The Ravages of the Axe': The Meaning of the Tree Stump in Nineteenth-Century American Art." The Art Bulletin 61, no. 4 (December 1979): 619-620, repro.
1980
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 180, repro.
1980
Lewis, Pierce. "When America was English." Geographical Magazine 52 (February 1980): repro. 347.
1980
Novak, Barbara. Nature and Culture: American Landscape and Painting 1825-1875. New York, 1980: 171-174, repro. 172.
1980
Wilmerding, John. American Light: The Luminist Movement, 1850-1875, Paintings, Drawings, Photographs. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980: 150, repro.
1980
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980: 15, 98, no. 30, color repro.
1981
Walther, Susan Danly. The Railroad in the American Landscape. Wellesley, 1981: 79, repro. 78 and cover.
1981
Williams 1981, 123, 124, repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 544, no. 821, color repro.
1985
Cikovsky, Nicolai, Jr., and Michael Quick. George Inness. Exh. cat. Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Los Angeles, 1985: 17, 74, 76, repro. 75.
1988
Carfritz, Robert Lawrence Gowing and David Rosand. Places of Delight: The Pastoral Landscape. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art and The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 1988: 230, repro. 215.
1988
Cikovsky, Nicolai, Jr. "George Inness' The Lackawanna Valley: 'Type of the Modern'." In The Railroad in American Art: Representations of Technological Change, edited by Susan Danly and Leo Marx. Cambridge, Mass., 1988: 71-91, repro. 72.
1988
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 112, no. 33, color repro.
1990
"Northeastern Pennsylvania in Art: A Century of Tradition." Museum Quarterly. Scranton, Pennsylvania, 1990: n.p., repro.
1992
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 209, repro.
1992
Kammen, Michael. Meadows of Memory: Images of Time and Tradition in American Art and Culture. Austin, 1992: 78, repro. 81.
1992
Marx, Leo. "Does Pastoralism Have a Future?" Studies in the History of Art 36 (1992): 218-221, fig. 5.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 234, repro.
1992
Pike, Frederick B. The United States and Latin America. Austin, 1992: repro. 20.
1993
Cikovsky, Nicolai, Jr. George Inness. New York, 1993: 32, 33, 34, color repro. 32.
1996
Kelly, Franklin, with Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., Deborah Chotner, and John Davis. American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 350-354, color repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 324, no. 260, color repro.
2008
Butterfield, Andrew. "The Genius of George Inness." Review. The New York Review of Books. 55, no. 14 (September 25, 2008): 8.
2012
Lyons, Maura. “An Embodied Landscape: Wounded Trees at Gettysburg.” American Art 26, no. 3 (Fall 2012): 54-55, color fig. 9.

Technical Summary

A moderately thin off-white ground covers a medium-weight, plain-weave, double-threaded fabric that has been lined. Paint was applied in a medium-thick film with highlights of the foliage in the foreground in impasto but otherwise wet-over-dry, with much visible brushwork. The pitted and quilted texture of paint and ground in the sky is unlike the rest of the painting, suggesting that it was repainted, perhaps by the artist himself. Cracks reveal a lower paint layer. Infrared reflectography discloses a ruled grid pattern that resembles a similarly ruled study drawing. The painting is in very good condition, with paint loss and old inpainting throughout, and a large area of loss to the right of the roundhouse. In 1971, the painting underwent varnish removal and was restored. The varnish has become slightly yellowed; the inpainting has discolored.

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