Greenwood Lake, N.J. signed and dated 'J.F Cropsey / 1881' (lower center) oil on canvas 12 x 20in
PROVENANCE: The artist (Probably) William J. Arkell, Canajoharie, New York, gift from the above Private collection, New York Private collection, acquired from the above, 1970s By descent to the present owner
EXHIBITED: (Probably) Canajoharie, New York, Teko Club, 1881, no. 9.
LITERATURE: (Probably)"A Happy Event," Utica Morning Herald and Gazette, 22 February 1881, p. 2 (as Autumn). (Probably) "The Arkell Reception by the Artists' Fund--Presentation of Paintings," New York Herald, 22 February 1881, p. 6 (as Greenwood Lake).
The present work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work to be published by The Newington-Cropsey Foundation. We are grateful to Dr. Kenneth W. Maddox for his assistance in cataloging this lot.
Renowned Hudson River School artist Jasper F. Cropsey was born on his father's farm near Rossville, Staten Island in 1823. Early in life, Cropsey developed a love of American landscape that would endure until his death on the eve of the new century. Beginning in 1837, Cropsey commenced his artistic training with a five year apprenticeship under the direction of New York City architect Joseph Trench. While apprenticing with Trench, Cropsey also studied watercolor painting with Edward Maury. The emerging artist was taught to embellish his architectural renderings with landscape, a skill that would later be the foundation of his greatest canvases.
In 1841, Cropsey began experimenting with oil painting, having been highly encouraged by fellow artists William Sidney Mount, Henry Inman and William Ranney. Neither Cropsey's love of painting nor his love of architecture would out shadow the other, leaving him to shift between the two for the remainder of his career. In 1843, Cropsey established his own architectural office in New York and exhibited his first painting at the National Academy of Design, New York. This also happened to be the year he made his first sketching trip to Greenwood Lake, New Jersey, the location depicted in the present work. In 1845, Cropsey met his wife, Maria Cooley, whose family lived on the lake in West Milford, New Jersey. It has been believed that Cooley's father encouraged the artist's visits to the extent that he offered to build Cropsey a "painting room" (Brennecke, Cropsey: Artist and Architect, 1987, p. 38). After their marriage in 1847, the Cropsey family would visit the lake each summer and Cropsey would later design a home for them in Warwick, New York, on a hill overlooking the landscape.
By 1860, Cropsey had risen to international fame as a painter of American autumnal landscapes. His Autumn on the Hudson, exhibited at the Royal Academy in London, was highly praised by English critics. Despite his early production of many successful allegorical landscapes, Cropsey favored pure landscapes in which he combined the natural world, in highly accurate detail, and spirituality in the sublime vista. Not unlike his contemporaries, the American landscape gave the artist inspiration to use the cloudscapes and variation of light as expressions of God's presence. Cropsey expressed this to his future wife in a letter, "[T]he voice of God came to me through every motionless leaf, on every blade of grass---the odor of the flower and in every breath of air I drew." (letter, July 4, 1846 quoted in Myers, The Catskills, 1987, n.p.).
Greenwood Lake, N.J., highlights Cropsey's critical perception of the effects of atmosphere while also displaying his unwavering passion for pure, idealized landscape. Seemingly effortless touches to the sky made in pink and white turn a looming storm into a passing one. The autumnal colors, for which Cropsey is famous, sparkle in the foreground and on either side of the lake, only to be reinforced by the livestock. The majestic afternoon depicted in the present work recalls Cropsey's most successful compositions only to be further complimented with hallmarks of his finest techniques as a painter. It is not surprising that a painting of similar subject would warrant an election of the artist to associate at the National Academy of Design in 1844.
Throughout his career, Cropsey achieved copious honors and continued to exhibit regularly at the National Academy of Design and the American Watercolor Society in New York. Cropsey's dynamic abilities allowed him to succeed in all mediums -- including his work as an illustrator, designer and architect. Greenwood Lake, N.J. stands as a pristine example of the diverse skills Cropsey possessed while embracing a subject that would have certainly been one of personal importance.