American Paintings and Sculpture
Artist: John Frederick Kensett, American, 1816–1872

Rocky Pool, Bash Bish Falls


Oil on paper

30 × 25 in. (76.2 × 63.5 cm)
Estate of James W. Fosburgh, B.A. 1933, M.A. 1935

In contrast to the heroic western landscapes of his contemporary Albert Bierstadt, John Kensett’s landscapes were of popular tourist sites in the east, all within easy reach of railroad stations and hotels. When he painted Bash Bish Falls, the site in southwestern Massachusetts was already a fashionable destination made famous for its eighty-foot-high twin waterfalls. Using a dramatic vertical composition, Kensett captures a sense of fresh discovery, as if the tiny red-clad figures on the cliff are the first visitors to come upon this secret woodland. Trained in his youth as an engraver of maps and bank notes, Kensett carried over his care for detailed draftsmanship to his work as a leading figure of the Hudson River School. His method was to make realistic, detailed pencil sketches outdoors and then to develop the sketches into finished paintings in his New York studio. Kensett’s reverence for nature’s simple nobility influenced all his work, imbuing the topographical, geological, and botanical character of each site with such specificity that his viewers could easily match painting and place.

Made in United States
On view
19th century

Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 319, no. 203, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.