About This Artwork

George Inness
American, 1825–1894

The Home of the Heron, 1893

Oil on canvas
76.2 x 115.2 cm (30 x 45 in.)
Signed, lower right: "G. Inness 1893"

Edward B. Butler Collection, 1911.31

The landscape painter George Inness once explained, “The true purpose of the painter is simply to reproduce in other minds the impression which a scene has made upon him . . . to awaken an emotion.” Inness sought, particularly in his later years, to record not so much the appearance of nature as its poetry. To achieve this, he limited his subject matter to, in his words, “rivers, streams, the rippling brook, the hillside, the sky, the clouds.” For half a century, the artist captured these moisture-laden subjects in all seasons, during all hours of the day and night. First he made small, quick sketches in the field or wood, and then, in the seclusion of his studio, he used them to create the more than one thousand oils credited to him. Inness completed The Home of the Heron near the end of his career, after he had finally achieved a degree of comfort and success. The painting is characteristic of his late work, with loosely rendered detail and dim objects that seem bathed in an almost incandescent glow. The picture’s blurred outlines, broad handling, and delicate, subtle tonalities, as well as the solitary presence of the heron, masterfully evoke nature’s stillness and mystery. With more than two dozen canvases by Inness, the Art Institute has one of the most comprehensive collections of the painter’s work.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, American Fine Arts Society, "Exhibition of the Paintings Left by the Late George Inness," December 27, 1894, no. 34.

New York, Lotos Club, "Exposition of Paintings from the Collection of Mr. Emerson McMillin," March 29-31, 1902, no. 13.

Chicago, Henry Reinhardt Galleries, "An Exhibition of Eighteen Pictures by the American Master of Landscape Painting, the late George Inness, N.A.," 1911, no. 3.

Austin, Texas, University Art Museum, University of Texas, "The Paintings of George Inness (1844-1894)," 1965-1966, no. 122, ill.

Springfield, Illinois State Museum, "Nineteenth-Century American Paintings: a Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago," March 5-April 24, 1966; traveled to Iowa, Davenport Municipal Art Gallery, May 19-June 5, 1966; Muscatine, Iowa, Laura Musser Art Gallery and Museum, July 24-October 2, 1966; Peoria, Illinois, Lakeview Center for the Arts and Sciences, November 30, 1966-January 8, 1967.

Champaign, Illinois, Krannert Art Museum, "250 Years of American Art," Art Resources Traveler exhibition, May 1968-July 1969, cat. np.

Spokane, Washington, International Exposition "Our Land, Our Sky, Our Water: An Exhibition of Amerian and Canadian Art," 1974, no. 20.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, "THe Natural Paradise: Painting in America 1800-1950," 1976.

Oakland Museum Art Department, George Inness Landscapes: His Signature YEars, 1884-1894," 1978-79.

Jacksonville, Fla., Cummer Gallery of Art, George Inness in Florida, 1890-1894, and the South, 1884-1894, April 11-May 25, 1980, no. 21.

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, George Inness, April 1-June 9, 1985, Nicolai Chikovsky and Michael Quick, cat. no. 59, p. 195, ill. ; traveled to The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, November 10, 1985-January 12, 1986; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, February 20-May 11, 1986. (Picture did not go to the final condensed exhibition at the National Gallery in Washington, June 22-September 7, 1986, no. 59.

National Academy of Design, New York, The Art of George Inness: A Visionary Perspective, September 17-December 28, 2003, traveled to San Diego Museum of Art, January 24-April 18, 2004, no. 36.

Williamstown, Massachusetts, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, "Like Breath on Glass: Whistler, Inness, and the Art of Painting Softly," June 22-October 19, 2008.

Publication History

Bland Simpson, “Canalbank Life,” Virginia Calvalcade (Spring 1990) pp. 172-181, ill. p. 177.

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

Michael Quick, George Inness, a Catalogue Raisonne, vol. 2 (Rutgers University Press, 2007), no. 1097, pl. 238, as The Sun's Last Reflection.

Ownership History

Estate of the artist (sale, Fifth Avenue Galleries, New York, February 12-14, 1895, no. 69, as "The Sun's Last Reflection;"; E.W. Bass, 1895; Emerson McMillin, New York, to 1911; Knoedler & Co., New York, 1911; Reinhardt Galleries, Chicago, 1911; sold to Edward B. Butler, Chicago, 1911; given to the Art Institute of Chicago, 1911.

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