Beautiful Atmospheric Paintings By George Inness

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George Inness

George Inness (1825 – 1894) was one of the top American landscape painters known for his ability to depict atmosphere, mood and emotion through his paintings.

His paintings are very unique and few artists seem to have been able to produce some atmospheric displays. He was a figurehead of what is known as the tonalist movement.

The tonalist movement was defined by atmospheric landscapes which were painted with dark and often dull tones.

What I love about many of George Inness’ paintings is the contrast between areas of atmospheric and soft color and more delicate areas of detail and saturated color.

To give you an idea of George Inness’ mindset and thoughts on painting, here are some of his quotes:

“The greatness of art is not in the display of knowledge, or in material accuracy, but in the distinctness with which it conveys the impressions of a personal vital force, that acts spontaneously, without fear or hesitation.”

“We are all the subjects of impressions, and some of us seek to convey the impressions to others. In the art of communicating impressions lies the power of generalizing without losing the logical connection of parts to the whole which satisfies the mind.”

“The true end of art is not to imitate a fixed material condition, but to represent a living emotion.”

“The purpose of the painter is simply to reproduce in other minds the impression which a scene has made upon him. A work of art does not appeal to the intellect. It does not appeal to the moral sense. Its aim is not to instruct, not to edify, but to awaken an emotion.”

I think these quotes indicate why Inness was able to create paintings with such an ethereal and atmospheric quality. He did not seem focused so much on the perfect rendering of scenes but instead merely translating how he felt. With that being said, his paintings are remarkably complex in a technical sense.

One thing to learn from Inness is that technical knowledge alone will not allow you to create beautiful art. You also need to understand how people interpret things. If you do not understand how the human mind works and how we interpret things, then you will not be able to connect with people through your paintings.

Let’s take a look at some of his beautiful paintings.

George Inness, The Valley Of The Olives, 1867
George Inness, The Valley Of The Olives, 1867
George Inness, The Storm, 1885
George Inness, The Storm, 1885
George Inness, The Mill Stream, Montclair, New Jersey, 1888
George Inness, The Mill Stream, Montclair, New Jersey, 1888
George Inness, The Lackawanna Valley, 1855
George Inness, The Lackawanna Valley, 1855
George Inness, The Home Of The Heron, 1893
George Inness, The Home Of The Heron, 1893
George Inness, Sunset, 1865
George Inness, Sunset, 1865
George Inness, Sunset Over The Sea
George Inness, Sunset Over The Sea
George Inness, Sunset On The Passaic, 1891
George Inness, Sunset On The Passaic, 1891
George Inness, Sunset At Etretat, 1875
George Inness, Sunset At Etretat, 1875
George Inness, Summer Landscape, 1894
George Inness, Summer Landscape, 1894
George Inness, Pool in the Woods, 1892
George Inness, Pool in the Woods, 1892
George Inness, Old Elm At Medfield
George Inness, Old Elm At Medfield
George Inness, Moonrise, 1887
George Inness, Moonrise, 1887
George Inness, Lake Albano, 1869
George Inness, Lake Albano, 1869
George Inness, End Of Day, 1855
George Inness, End Of Day, 1855
George Inness, Early Moonrise, Florida, 1893
George Inness, Early Moonrise, Florida, 1893

How Did Inness Create Such Luminous Paintings?

One of the fascinating things about George Inness’ paintings is how he was able to portray light with such luminosity.

Portraying light is difficult in paintings as we are not able to actually paint light. All we can do is paint the illusion of light.

Take a look at this painting:

George Inness, Brooklyn Museum
George Inness, Brooklyn Museum

Let’s analyze this painting to try and determine how he created such a luminous sunset.

First, here is the painting in grayscale so we can clearly see the balance between light and dark (often referred to as notan). Observe the sharp contrast between the very dark values and the mid-high values.

Grayscale, George Inness, Brooklyn Museum

Now, let’s take a look at the colors used.

For the darks, he used very dark greens (almost black).

How To Paint Luminous Sunsets

Above the darks, Inness started to work into dark oranges and reds.

How To Paint Luminous Sunsets

Finally, for the lightest parts of the painting Inness used very high saturation yellows and oranges.

How To Paint Luminous Sunsets

Overall, this is a remarkably simple color palette, but it produces some stunning results.

I hope you enjoyed these paintings. I recommend you read more about his story as you can learn much from him.

Thanks for Reading!

Feel free to share with friends. If you want more painting tips, check out my fundamentals course.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy

Read more of my articles. 

11 comments on “Beautiful Atmospheric Paintings By George Inness”

  1. Thank you so much for all the trouble you took to show the lights and darks in his paintings. Easy to watch nut not always so easy to get right!

    Reply
  2. Wow! I have never heard of Geaorge Inness. What an extraordinary painter. I love all the paintings you displayed. I must learn more about him. Loved the show and thank you.

    Reply
  3. Thanks once again for your efforts Dan, I love his work, and I think my own work is improving after reading your blogs! Have a happy Xmas!

    Reply
  4. Thanks for the artistic moment. The concept of ligh versus dark is something g I knew but adding the concept of depth of colour will bring new ideas to life for me. Thanks again

    Reply
  5. I have a painting by George Inness of an Alpine lakeside scene painted in oil on canvas I like it very
    much but have no idea of its value it is about 2′ 6 by 2′ approximately and is signed Nit G Ol in the
    bottom left corner. Please can you give me an indication of its value?

    Reply
  6. Thank you for sharing your insight into the lights and darks of the paintings of
    George Inness. (Always felt they were too dark until now)

    Reply

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