John Frederick Kensett World Famous Artist and Cheshire, CT Native
Scroll below to watch a 20 minute video of John Frederick Kensett
John Frederick Kensett was born in Cheshire, CT March 22, 1816, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Kensett. The family lived at 242 South Main St. in the current location of the Hartford HealthCare building. John’s father, Thomas, was an engraver and employed local women to color his engravings at his business on Blacks Road. John attended Cheshire Academy as a youth and initially learned engraving at his father’s shop. Yet a paint brush soon became his most important tool.
In 1840, Kensett traveled to Europe and spent 7 years painting in artist colonies in Paris and Rome with notable landscape artists such as Asher B. Durand and Thomas Rossiter. In 1847, Kensett opened a studio near Washington Square Park, NYC and spent summers sketching across the country, New England to Colorado.
In 1870, John Frederick Kensett became one of the founders and original trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A member of the Hudson River School of artists, Kensett preserved the history of the Connecticut shoreline with his realist oil paintings. Hudson River School paintings reflect three themes of America in the 19th century: discovery, exploration, and settlement.
Kensett’s contribution to the history of art involves his use of brilliant light in landscapes, a technique called “Luminism.” This technique alters the reality of the scene with almost invisible brushstrokes to convey the qualities and effects of atmospheric light. His innovative approach influenced generations of landscape artists.
On Oct. 31, 1872, Kensett contracted pneumonia after gallantly attempting to retrieve the body of Mary Colyer, who had perished in a carriage accident in icy water. This unselfish act brought on the pneumonia and John Frederick Kensett died on December 14, 1872 at the age of 56. Engravings and paintings produced by this Cheshire native are viewed in the most prestigious art museums in the world. Locally his art may be seen at the New Britain Museum of American Art, Yale Art Gallery, The Mattatuck Museum and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.