Lake George

Large (OASC)

Sometimes it is tempting, especially in cases like John Frederick Kensett’s Lake George (1869), to take detailed landscapes at face value.

When every blade of grass in the water, every flower on he bank, and every mar in the bark of the fallen tree is carefully delineated, it begins to seem like straightforward reportage.

(It is one of the reasons, I think, that people occasionally find landscapes boring.)

However, Kensett—like most landscapists—has made careful choices in the composition of the piece, to guide the eye and to give the work shape.

It is, of course, based on the actual Lake George, which Kensett had visited. But, as the Metropolitan Museum writes, “he has taken considerable liberties with the topography in composing the work.”