Washington Irving's Sketch Book, published serially in London and New York journals in 1820, captivated readers worldwide. Quidor's Return of Rip Van Winkle accurately sets the scene in the Catskills and shows brick houses with step-gabled, Dutch roofs. The mountains and buildings are the only familiar elements to poor Rip, who'd been drugged by Henry Hudson's enchanted crew twenty years earlier. Having slept through the Revolutionary War, Rip finds a flag bearing "a singular assemblage of stars and stripes," while the face of King George on the tavern's sign has been repainted to that of an unknown George named Washington.
Quidor's painting is a perfect pantomime to the climax of Irving's story, as Rip discovers -- to his bewilderment -- that he has a son and grandson, both namesakes. The scene is animated by thick strokes of pure white paint, phantom highlights within the golden, dreamlike haze. Quidor's obsession with depicting Rip Van Winkle has been interpreted as indicative of the artist's own search for acceptance. Although Quidor spent four years training under a society portraitist and occasionally exhibited pictures of literary themes at the National Academy of Design, he had to earn his living by painting signs and decorating fire engines.
More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part II, pages 81-86, which is available as a free PDF (21MB).
lower center on rock: J. Quidor, / N.Y. / 18[4?]9
(Augustus W. Oberwalder [Augustus De Forest], New York); purchased 13 December 1920 by Thomas B. Clarke [1848-1931], New York; his estate; sold as part of the Clarke collection 29 January 1936, through (M. Knoedler & Co., New York), to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1942 to NGA.
- Twenty-Seventh Annual Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1850, no. 31.
- Exhibition of Paintings by Early American Portrait Painters, The Union League Club, New York, December 1921, no. 1.
- Portraits by Early American Artists of the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Collected by Thomas B. Clarke, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1928-1931, unnumbered and unpaginated catalogue.
- Life in America [A Special Loan Exhibition of Paintings Held During the Period of the New York World's Fair], The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1939, no. 113,repro.
- A Souvenir of Romanticism in America, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1940, unnumbered.
- John Quidor 1801-1881, Brooklyn Museum, 1942, no. 3, repro.
- American Paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1943.
- American Paintings from the Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1951.
- 300th Anniversary, Senate House State Historic Site, Kingston, New York, 1952, no cat.
- [Opening exhibition of new art gallery], Randolph-Macon Woman's College, Lynchburg, Virginia, 1952-1953, no cat.
- American Paintings from the Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1953.
- American Paintings from the Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1955.
- Recent Rediscoveries in American Art, Cincinnati Art Museum, 1955, no. 81, repro.
- Man: Glory, Jest, and Riddle, A Survey of the Human Form Through the Ages, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, 1964-1965, no. 212.
- John Quidor, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica; The Rochester Memorial Art Gallery; Albany Institute of History and Art, 1965-1966, no. 4.
- Arts in the Young Republic, Ackland Memorial Art Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1968.
- [Opening exhibition of American art], National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C., 1968, no cat.
- 19th-Century America: Paintings and Sculptures, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1970, no. 40.
- John Quidor, Wichita Art Museum, 1973, no cat.
- The Painter's America: Rural and Urban Life, 1810-1910, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Oakland Museum, 1974-1975, no. 16.
- America As Art, National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C., 1976, no. 98.
- New Horizons: American Painting 1840-1910 (organized by Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service), State Russian Museum, Leningrad; State Art Museum of Belorussia, Minsk; State Museum of Russian Art, Kiev, 1987-1988, no. 28.
- Loan for display with permanent collection, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, 1995-1996.
- Dutch New York: The Roots of Hudson Valley Culture, The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, 2009-2010, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- Portraits by Early American Artists of the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Collected by Thomas B. Clarke. Exh. cat. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1928, unnumbered.
- Life in America: A Special Loan Exhibition of Paintings Held during the Period of the New York World's Fair. Exh. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1939: 83, fig. 113.
- Baur, John I.H. John Quidor 1801-1881. Exh. cat. Brooklyn Museum, New York, 1942: 8-9, 48, pl. 3.
- Callow, James T. Kindred Spirits: Knickerbocker Writers and American Artists, 1807-1855. Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1967: 188.
- American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 92, repro.
- Wilmerding, John. American Art. Hammondsworth, England, and New York, 1976: 114, pl. 132.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 214, repro.
- Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980: 68, no. 15, color repro.
- Williams, William James. A Heritage of American Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1981: 82-3, color repro. 100.
- Wolf, Bryan Jay. Romantic Re-Vision: Culture and Consciousness in Nineteenth-Century American Painting and Literature. Chicago, 1982: 152-173, pl. 41.
- Brown, Milton W. One Hundred Masterpieces of American Painting from Public Collections in Washington, D.C. Washington, D.C., 1983: 62, pl. 63.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 547, no. 828, color repro.
- Wilson, Christopher Kent. "John Quidor's The Return of Rip Van Winkle at the National Gallery of Art: The Interpretation of an American Myth." American Art Journal 19 (1987): 23-45.
- Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 78, no. 16, color repro.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 269, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 227, repro.
- Torchia, Robert Wilson, with Deborah Chotner and Ellen G. Miles. American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part II. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1998: 81-86, color repro.
- Moore, Charlotte Emans. "Art as Text, War as Context: The Art Gallery of the Metropolitan Fair, New York City's Artistic Community, and the Civil War." Ph.D. diss. Boston University, 2009: xii, 24, 554, fig. 1-6.