Scene in Perugia is one of a series of Italian landscapes that Inness painted in Boston, Massachusetts, after he returned from his second sojourn in Italy. During three summers between 1870 and 1874, Inness had worked in the vicinity of Perugia, the capital city of the region of Umbria in...
Scene in Perugia is one of a series of Italian landscapes that Inness painted in Boston, Massachusetts, after he returned from his second sojourn in Italy. During three summers between 1870 and 1874, Inness had worked in the vicinity of Perugia, the capital city of the region of Umbria in central Italy. American artists were attracted there by Perugia’s medieval architecture, the frescoes of the Italian Renaissance master Perugino, and the beauty of the surrounding countryside. Elihu Vedder, the American artist most associated with Perugia, summered there throughout the 1870s. From Vedder, Inness learned how to incorporate Italy’s strong sunlight into his painting. The eerie, haunted quality [06.2430] of many of Vedder’s works may also have influenced a few of Inness’s most memorable Italian canvases, notably Lake Nemi [49.412] and The Monk (1873, Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts). This painting is characteristic of Inness’s work of the mid-1870s, when he often depicted moments of transition in the weather, from stormy to calm, as in The Church Spire [20.1863]. Here, a deep, mysterious gorge in the foreground and menacing clouds from a passing tempest darken the left side of the painting. In contrast, the white buildings are lit by the sun breaking through the clouds. A rainbow emphasizes the ephemeral nature of the storm. Beneath this meteorological display, the laundresses and monks carry on the daily routines that had remained timeless for centuries. Inness must have intended Scene in Perugia to be an exhibition picture, for he chose a large canvas on which to paint it. He based his composition on a sketch he had made, Near Perugia, Italy (about 1875, private collection) and finished the large painting in time to send it to the 1875 spring exhibition at the National Academy of Design in New York. Reviewers of the exhibition commended Inness’s “rendering of atmospheric conditions” and noted its “dreamy poetic feeling.” The critic for the New York Times compared the unfinished quality of the picture to similarly sketchy paintings made by American artists influenced by the French Barbizon School. Notes 1. See Michael Quick, George Inness: A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1 (New Brunswick, N. J.: Rutgers University Press, 2007), 330. 2. “Academy of Design,” New York Herald, April 8, 1875, 12, quoted in Quick, George Inness, 455. 3. “The Exhibition at the Academy of Design,” New York Times, April 17, 1875, 3. Janet L. Comey
Lower right: G. Inness 1875
1875, the artist; by 1876, with Doll and Richards, Boston; after 1898, James Brown Case (1825-1907), Boston and Weston, Mass.; by 1919, by descent to his daughters, Louise W. Case (1862-1946) and Marian R. Case (1864-1944), Weston; 1920, gift of Misses Louise W. and Marian R. Case to the MFA. (Accession Date: Feb. 26, 1920)
Gift of the Misses Louisa W. and Marian R. Case