George Inness is highly recognized and well respected among painters and collectors. He was an immensely capable artist. Although he lived and passed some 100 years ago, his influence has affected the artistic direction of many. I count myself as one of the influenced.
Notice I said influenced and not infected. To me, influenced means “inspired by” while not being obsessed with copying or emulating the actual works of this great artistic giant. This is an important distinction.
It has taken me 20 years to find my own artistic voice. I can vividly recall when it happened. I remember well the very moment. Alone in my studio, I said out loud “that’s it!” The painting where I found my voice was later to be titled “Lullaby”. It was so named because creating that painting was so natural for me. It felt like coming home after a long journey. It was a soothing comfort which took me into another world. John Denver said that when he first got to Colorado he felt like he had “come home to a place he had never been before”
That was me.
I had studied many great artists over the years but I had never really looked closely at George Inness. I suppose that I was not ready until the time was right. What really got me excited about George Inness was he painted like he did not care. Don’t get me wrong, I do not mean that he did not care to make beautiful canvases. What I mean is he was absolutely fearless. He would do whatever was necessary to achieve the mood that he wanted to convey. He scumbled, glazed, scratched, and scraped his canvases over and over again until he was satisfied. The painting came into being little by little by the power of his imagination and his willingness to let his artistic muse determine the outcome. He did not resist the random patterns of his underpainting, but rather embraced them, knowing that the staggering power of unconscious creativity was found in them.
In addition, George Inness was not opposed to glazing the entire painting to achieve his color harmony and mood. This is something that was rather frowned upon in his day and this is also somewhat the case in today’s “opaque paint” world. He was once visited by a young art school student who observed him glazing his whole painting with one color. The student was shocked and said something like “you’re a great painter, I can’t believe that you would resort to a glazed veil to achieve your affects”. George Inness replied “you go back to your art school and tell them that I would smear mud on my canvas if it got me what I want”.
George Inness was in three words SIMPLE, FEARLESS and FREE. No canvas was safe from repainting. No passage immune from being scraped off and “tickled” as he described it. These are the great lessons that George Inness influenced me with. It was almost as if he whispered to me through his paintings... “be simple, fearless and free just once, and see what happens”. I did… and it worked.