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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Narragansett Bay

Narragansett Bay


John Frederick Kensett

Born Chesire, Connecticut, 1816; died New York City, New York, 1872

We “revel in cool atmospheres and transparent waters with Kensett,” wrote one of the artist’s many admiring followers in 1863. Kensett established his reputation in the 1850s with exquisite forest interiors, but by 1860 his art had evolved into delicate studies of the crystalline light that distinguishes the summertime character of Atlantic coast beaches. Newport, Rhode Island, and Narragansett Bay, became one of the artist’s favorite places to paint. In the serene coves which here and there mark the shoreline of this naturally protected harbor, Kensett found inspiration in a distinctive embracing atmosphere and easy rapport with nature, the qualities that would make the area a celebrated summer resort. Everything about this simple picnic scene conveys a sense of peace. A viewer would never suspect that it was painted in the midst of the country’s Civil War.

Oil on canvas
14 x 24 in. (35.6 x 61cm)
Partial and promised gift from a private collection
Provenance: John H. B. Latrobe (1803-1891), Baltimore, Maryland; bequeathed to his daughter, Virginia Isabel Latrobe (Mrs. Andrew Kirkpatrick Cogswell, 1854-1924), 1891; to her son, M. Latrobe Cogswell; presented to Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore; deaccessioned and sold to [Vose Galleries, Boston, 1969-1970]; sold to Mr. and Mrs. George D. Hart, Ross, California, 1970-1998; sold to donors, Seattle
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Exhibition HistoryWashington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, American Light: The Luminist Movement, 1850-1875, Feb. 10 - June 15, 1980. Text by John Wilmerding, et al. No cat. no., pl. 12, reproduced p. 24, fig. 12.

Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, A New World: Masterpieces of American Painting, 1760-1910, Sept. 7 - Nov. 13, 1983 (Washington, D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Dec. 7, 1983 - Feb. 12, 1984; Paris, France, Grand Palais, Mar. 16 - June 11, 1984). Text by Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., et al. Cat. no. 42, p. 245, reproduced pl. 42.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The American Landscape's 'Quieter Spirit': Early Paintings by Frederic Edwin Church, June 25 - Oct. 16, 2005. Text by Patricia Junker. Not in catalogue.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Beauty and Bounty: American Art in an Age of Exploration, June 30 - Sept. 11, 2011. No catalogue.
Published ReferencesJunker, Patricia. "A Sense of Place: American Art and the Seattle Art Museum." The Magazine Antiques (November 2008): p. 113, not reproduced.

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.

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