Published: March 15, 2011
The Friends of the Nantucket Historical Association succeeded in purchasing an oil on board painting by major Nineteenth Century American landscape artist George Inness (1825‹4) titled “Back of Nichols’ Barn, ‘Sconset” at Christie’s American paintings, drawings and sculpture sale on March 3.
The 1883 painting depicts a charming rural scene of sheep wandering through a broken fence in a ramshackle farmyard in Siasconset, past a group of whale oil casks that have been converted for use as water barrels. “Back of Nichols’ Barn, ‘Sconset” is one of only a handful of canvases that Inness is known to have composed with Nantucket subjects, and one of a select number of island scenes by one of the leading American artists of the Nineteenth Century.
“There aren’t many opportunities to pursue important works by major artists with Nantucket subjects for the collections,” said Ben Simons, NHA Robyn & John Davis chief curator. “We were thrilled to be able to secure this lovely ‘Sconset landscape by George Inness for posterity. The NHA collections did not have any works by Inness prior to the sale. The painting was once owned by Walter Beinecke Jr and has been on our wish list for some time. It is a major acquisition, and we are hugely grateful to the Friends for making it possible.”
The painting was purchased for the permanent collection by the Friends of the Nantucket Historical Association. Additional support was provided by the NHA Acquisition Fund and the Max and Heidi Berry Acquisition Fund. The painting will be included in the upcoming Friends 25th anniversary catalog, Island Treasures: Gifts of the Friends of the Nantucket Historical Association (June 2011), and in the exhibition “Eastman Johnson and His Contemporaries on Nantucket,” opening April 15 in the Whitney Gallery, NHA Research Library, 7 Fair Street, and thereafter on permanent display at the Whaling Museum.
Inness visited Nantucket on several occasions, and spent the summer of 1883 in Siasconset. He wrote letters describing his stay to his wife, Lizzie, including one that mentions the painting in detail: “Sconset August 4, 1883/ Dear Lizzie . . . I have had a great success with another painted out of doors back of Nichols’ barn †some sheep coming through a gateway.” Inness’s other Nantucket works include “The Lone Farm, Nantucket” (The Art Institute of Chicago), “Morning Walk, ‘Sconset (A Windy Day)” (Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla.) and “Siasconset Beach” (private collection).
For general information, www.nha.org or 508-228-1894, extension 0.
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