About This Artwork

George Inness
American, 1825–1894

The Old Mill, 1849

Oil on canvas
75.9 x 107 cm (29 7/8 x 42 1/8 in.)
Signed, lower right: "G. Inness 1849"

The William Owen Goodman and Erna Sawyer Goodman Collection, 1939.388

George Inness began painting landscapes during a period in which the public preferred depictions of the untamed American wilderness; throughout his career, however, he insisted upon the importance of the cultivated landscape as a subject for art. In this work, the brightly lit figures and mill contrast with the shadowy darkness of the trees, suggesting the potential for danger at the edge of the forest. The rundown mill represents a stable, settled area but also points to the changes brought about by industrialization. Inness thus created a contradictory view of rural life that celebrates its simplicity and safety while hinting at its decline.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, American Art Union, June–Dec. 1849, cat. 128.

New York, John Fell O’Brien Art Gallery, Jan. 13–14, 1902, cat. 108.

Art Institute of Chicago, The Hudson River School and Early American Landscape Tradition, Feb. 15–Mar. 15, 1945, cat. 123; traveled to New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Apr. 17–May 18, 1945.
Springfield, Mass., George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, George Inness, An American Landscape Painter, 1825–1894, Feb. 25–Mar. 24, 1946; traveled to Brooklyn Museum, Apr. 5–May 12, 1946, Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey, May 19–June 23, 1946, cat. 3.

Decatur Art Center, Ill., Masterpieces of The Old and New World, Apr. 11–May 9, 1948, cat. 23.

Austin, University Art Museum, University of Texas, The Paintings of George Inness (1844–1894), Dec. 12, 1965–Jan. 30, 1966, cat. 6.

Salt Lake City, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, American Painting Around 1850, Jan. 11–Feb. 22, 1976, cat. 14.

Publication History

Bulletin of American Art Union 2, 3 (June 1849), p. 46.

Bulletin of American Art Union 2, 6 (Sept. 1849), p. 42.

Bulletin of American Art Union 2, 7 (Oct. 1849), p. 36.

Bulletin of American Art Union 2, 8 (Nov. 1849), p. 88.

Bulletin of American Art Union 2, 9 (Dec. 1849), p. 35.

Bulletin of The Art Institute of Chicago: Report for the Year 1939 34, 3 (1940).

Virgil Barker, American Painting: History and Interpretation (Macmillan, 1950), no. 63.

Jacob G. Smith, “George Inness and the American Landscape Painter,” American Artist 20, 4 (Apr. 1956) pp. 30 (ill.), 71–73.

Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago: A Catalogue of the Picture Collection (Art Institute of Chicago, 1961), p. 221.

LeRoy Ireland, The Works of George Inness, An Illustrated Catalogue Raisonnè (University of Texas Press, 1965), no. 57.

Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., George Inness (Praeger Publishers, 1971), no. 5.

Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., The Life and Work of George Inness (Garland, 1977), no. 10.

Marjorie Dakin Arkelian, George Inness Landscapes: His Signature Years (Oakland Museum of Art, c. 1978), p. 13 (ill.).

“The Advantages of Genius and Virtue: Thomas Cole’s Influence, 1848–1858,” Paintings by Thomas Cole (National Museum of American Art, 1993).

Judith A. Barter et al, American Arts at The Art Institute of Chicago: From Colonial Times to World War I (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1998), cat. 74, pp. 168-171.

Rachael Ziady DeLue, George Inness: Landscape, Representation, and the Struggle of Vision (Ph.D. diss., John Hopkins University, 2000), fig. 4.1.

Michael Quick, George Inness, a Catalogue Raisonne, vol. 2 (Rutgers University Press, 2007), no. 34, pl. 15.

Ownership History

American Art Union, New York; James P. Kelly, New York, 1849, by distribution from the American Art-Union; (Sale, John Fell O'Brien, Auctioneer, at the Waldorf-Astoria, New York, January 13-14, 1902, no. 108); William Owen and Erna Sawyer Goodman, by 1939; given to the Art Institute, 1939.

Interpretive Resources

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