Artist Jasper Francis Cropsey captures autumn in oil with two paintings in our collection
By Audrey Scanlan-Teller, Ph.D., Independent Scholar, Elizabeth Johns, Ph.D., Former Trustee and Museum Scholar, and Daniel Fulco, Ph.D.,Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Curator
With autumn well underway, we hope you enjoy this painting in our collection. If you visit, this work is on view in the Smith Gallery.
Jasper Francis Cropsey (American, 1823‒1900)
Autumn Landscape with View of a River, 1870
Oil on canvas
18.125″h x 35.875″w
Collection of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
Museum purchase, A0828,55.0001
In Autumn Landscape with View of River, Jasper Cropsey represented the distant, sinking sun as its golden light emanates across the sky and reflects off the river. A campfire sends out an orange glow, one of the artist’s typical motifs. As viewers, we are invited to experience the beautiful vista enjoyed by the two hunters, shown seated near the edge of the cliff with their dog. We look out over the valley with them, our view framed on the left by white-barked birches and an ancient green hemlock and on the right by a cliff, rocks, and scattered shrubs. In the same year, the painter created a similar twilight landscape, Greenwood Lake, which suggests that Cropsey might have painted the Hagerstown canvas from sketches he made not far from that area (likely along the Hudson), a location he frequented throughout his life.
A number of American painters chose autumn as their favorite season for landscapes, not only for its spectacular beauty but because it suggested the gradual decay and fragility of the American wilderness as well as the seasons’ ephemerality. Autumn Landscape with View of River exemplifies Cropsey’s fall scenes that appealed to his patrons, particularly those in England who were unfamiliar with the deep reds of American maples. Judging by the color of the leaves, this scene likely unfolds in late October or early November.
Cropsey was a second-generation Hudson River School artist who greatly admired Thomas Cole. During his studies abroad in the late 1840s, he actually lived in the studio that Cole had occupied in Rome. Over the course of his career, Cropsey painted the Hudson River Valley, the Wyoming Valley of northeastern Pennsylvania, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the Greenwood Lake area of New Jersey and New York. Before becoming a painter, Cropsey trained as an architect and later used those skills to design his residence, Ever Rest, at Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, now the Cropsey Home and Studio (managed by the Newington-Cropsey Foundation).
In 1955, former WCMFA Director Bruce Etchison negotiated the purchase of Autumn Landscape with View of a River from the famed Macbeth Gallery (New York, NY), which was then owned by Robert McIntyre (1885–1965), a major dealer of American art. In 2020, this painting was conserved through the generous support of Elsie Morey.
Greenwood Lake, 1870
Oil on canvas
38 “h x 68.5 “w
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid