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JOHN FREDERICK KENSETT

BASH-BISH FALLS, MASSACHUSETTS, 1855

About the Artwork

Like Thomas Cole, John Frederick Kensett extolled the drama of the rocky rushing waterfalls found in the American landscape. Kensett had trained as an engraver and traveled abroad before settling in New York City in 1847. By 1855 when he painted this version of the southwestern Massachusetts cataract Bash-Bish Falls, the artist had made two trips to Niagara and had depicted other well-known picturesque falls, including Trenton, Rydal, and Catskill. Commissioned by the important New York collector of American and Dutch painting James Suydam, this scene of Bash-Bish may have had special appeal for Kensett’s patron because of its visual association with waterfalls portrayed by the seventeenth-century Dutch master Jacob Ruysdael, whose works were then greatly admired. Kensett and his patron also shared a deep interest in geology, and rocks feature prominently in Kensett’s depiction of the falls.

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