Jasper F. Cropsey 1823 - 1900
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Born in Staten Island in 1823, Jasper Francis Cropsey inherited the mantle of Thomas Cole as a painter of the sublime in the American landscape by mid-century. In the heart of his career, between 1850 and 1875, his paintings were held in esteem on a level with Cole and Asher Durand. He was trained as an architect, and rapidly excelled at draftsmanship before setting out as an architect. He drank deeply of Cole, and of John Ruskin upon the publication of Ruskin’s Modern Painters in 1847. His own students included David Johnson, who carried on Cropsey’s reverence for nature, as well as George Inness, whose own inward spirituality was manifested in his paintings of a somewhat different character, if no lesser in critical esteem.

In 1856, Cropsey sold a group of paintings in his studio, raising some $8,000—a princely sum in his day. The sale financed his decision to move his studio and family to England. The move was critical for Cropsey, and his new home of London welcomed him and his depictions of American landscapes. The English were enthusiastic patrons of Cropsey’s visions of autumn. While Anglo-American tastes for winter scenes ran to northern European painters, fall foliage of the Hudson River Valley and New England were fast becoming the voice of the season. The golden glow of Cropsey’s palette may have been the quintessence of American autumn. His 1860 Autumn—On the Hudson River (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) was a masterpiece of the idiom. His transplant to England also put him in touch with Ruskin. Mixed with his own religious ideas, the Ruskinian model infused his landscapes with rich metaphor, the fall foliage dappled with the light of the setting sun. Ruskin had not taken up any explicitly religious subjects in years, but his work was nonetheless suffused with a spirituality of the day. To quell the incredulity of his British patrons, Cropsey actually scattered around the bottom of the painting fallen American leaves which he had imported for the express purpose. “I am confident you will be able to convince your English friends that your rendering of the American Autumn forest is true,” wrote F. A. Otis, Cropsey’s American friend [as quoted by Anthony Speiser in Jasper Cropsey: Catalogue Raisonné, vol. I, p. xxv]. Evidently the English were convinced, and Autumn—On the Hudson would sell for greatest price Cropsey had then yet received for a single painting—$2,000 [ibid.].