Jasper Francis Cropsey

(1823 - 1900)


For information, contact: Gavin Spanierman, Managing Director, New York, 212-628-9760,

In his 1880 book, Art in America, S. G. W. Benjamin wrote: “The extraordinary variety of the effects of American landscape is…shown by the gorgeousness of our autumnal foliage,” and stated that to paint “effects of sunset, or the scarlet and gold of an American forest in the dreamy days of Indian Summer” was no less absurd than to undertake “to paint the splendor of many-colored drapery in an Oriental crowd,” then “considered a legitimate subject for the artist who has a correct eye for color.” Jasper Cropsey was chief among the artists whom Benjamin saw as capable of seizing “these autumnal displays with fine feeling and excellent judgment,” and he extolled Cropsey’s paintings as “remarkable for their truth and artistic beauty.” Dedicated to the notion that the distinctiveness of the American landscape shone forth best when the wilderness was clothed in the brilliant colors of autumn, Cropsey painted fall scenery with devotion unmatched by his contemporaries among the Hudson River School. Combining such images with the effects of brilliant sunsets, Cropsey’s images are icons of the view, held with certainty, that America was the new Eden.

Cropsey was indelibly associated with autumn from the time he displayed his enormous showpiece Autumn—On the Hudson River (1860, National Gallery of Art, Washington) to hundreds of spectators in London, who were “startled at the red and gold gorgeousness of those trees.” Subsequently he varied and expanded his autumnal repertoire, using a brush handling of greater painterly versatility than his contemporaries, who followed exacting approach of Asher B. Durand more closely. Such a method allowed Cropsey to match form and content, capturing the diversity of natural elements seen near at hand, while recording the shapes of clouds and distant landscape elements with fluid, more expressive means.
In the period following the Civil War, Cropsey continued to perpetutate his autumnal hymns, yet the tone of his images was often more elegiac, evoking a feeling of longing for the ready conviction of an earlier time. Such a mood permeates Autumn Sunset. The basis for the work appears to be Greenwood Lake, in northern New Jersey, which Cropsey visited initially in the 1840s on the invitation of the New York art dealer John P. Rider. Rider introduced Cropsey to his future wife Maria Cooley (1829-1906), whose family lived in a town on the lake, and the couple would stay often with her family in the decades that followed, affording Cropsey many opportunities to study and portray the lake. He also frequently reused subject matter drawn from it for his art. A similar image the lake Greenwood Lake, New Jersey (1871, oil on canvas, 20 x 33 inches, New York Historical Society).