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- 19th Century American Painting
- An Indian Summer Morning in the White Mountains , 1857
- oil on canvas
- 39 1/4 in. x 61 1/4 in. (99.7 cm x 155.58 cm)
- Jasper Francis Cropsey (Rossville, New York, 1823 - 1900, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York)
- Museum Purchase: Currier Funds, 1962.17
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Interpretive text from Exploring American Art: An Online Resource for the American Collections
(For biographical information on Jasper Francis Cropsey, see entry under Cropsey, Winter Landscape, North Conway, N.H., 2002.20.20)
The painting An Indian Summer Morning in the White Mountains established Jasper Cropsey's reputation in the English-speaking art community and was his rehearsal for what would be the greatest success of his career. It was made in England, where Cropsey had settled in 1856, and, although probably based on sketches done on an earlier tour of the White Mountains, it was clearly a studio picture, a composite of several sites. Cropsey first displayed the painting at the spring 1857 exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts in London; in the catalogue, the picture's description was accompanied by lines from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem Evangeline ("Filled was the air with a dreamy, magical light…"). The work was the English public's first exposure to Cropsey's autumnal palette (which critic John Ruskin at first regarded with suspicion but then came to praise for its "radiant truth"). It was also one of the first large-scale, dramatic views of the American wilderness to be shown abroad, and the British were enthralled. Critics called Cropsey an "excellent American painter" and hailed the picture's brilliant color, crisp detail, and especially the water, which was seen as particularly skillfully rendered. J.S. Morgan, the expatriate financier and collector, bought the painting a few months later for one thousand dollars, the highest price Cropsey had yet received. This success emboldened the artist to paint another wilderness view, similarly composed and colored but bucolic rather than wild, and to present it not in a gallery but as a "Great Picture" in his own studio. Autumn-On the Hudson River (1860, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC) enjoyed an extraordinary reception, earning Cropsey a space in the art section of the prestigious London International Exhibition of 1862 and an audience with Queen Victoria.
In An Indian Summer Morning in the White Mountains, Cropsey depicts the White Mountains as a primeval paradise. The rising sun illuminates a varied prospect: there is a snow-capped, craggy peak, rolling hills ablaze with autumn hues, and a briskly running mountain stream emptying into a deep, still pool that reflects the shapes and colors of the surrounding landscape. There is no sign of human presence; a few deer drink placidly from the stream at right while others nestle in the grass at left. The elemental qualities of the scene are underscored by the swirling mists and the deep shadows cast by the low sun: this is an untouched, wild, sublime place, mysterious and, for the English public, decidedly exotic.
It may well be the public for which he intended this picture that caused Cropsey to forego the prevailing characterization of the White Mountains as a benign and pleasing setting for human activity. While Thomas Cole in the 1820s had shown the area as a savagely beautiful and forbidding place, the coming of the railroad to the region caused his interpretation of the White Mountains to be supplanted by a bucolic vision, popularized by John F. Kensett (1816-1872) and others. Cropsey's return to Cole's imagery, to the White Mountains as the "forest primeval," clearly meshed with his British audience's notion of the New World. His work remained extremely sought after for the rest of his stay in England, and upon his return to the United States in 1863, he found that his celebrity and the market for his pictures had preceded him.
"A White Mountains Landscape by Jasper Francis Cropsey." Currier Gallery of Art Bulletin, February 1963, pp. 1-6.
Donald D. Keyes et al. The White Mountains: Place and Perception. Ex. cat. University Art Galleries, University of New Hampshire, Durham, 1980. Pp. 46, 88-89.
William S. Talbot. Jasper Francis Cropsey 1823-1900. Ex. cat. National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, 1980. Pp. 82-83.
The information presented here is reviewed regularly and may change as result of ongoing research.