This painting was done by the New York City and Deerfield artist, James Wells Champney. Known for his energy and enthusiasm, Champney was a skilled art teacher and popular lecturer, and unlike many of his contemporaries, managed to parlay his talents into a financially successful career. When in Deerfield, he often sketched the local countryside which provided the inspiration for his paintings. This work represents the quintessential view of the Connecticut River flowing south toward the Holyoke Range (a landscape that has changed little today). Champney preferred to humanize his landscapes by putting figures in the foreground- in this case, a hiking party examines the scenery through a telescope and binoculars. Champney’s years of study in France are apparent in his oil techniques – in fact, he was one of the first American artists to understand and apply the theory of French Impressionists with regard to light and color. This oil on canvas painting is applied to masonite board; it depicts the view from Mount Sugarloaf south to the Connecticut River to the Holyoke Range; the foreground has a grassy area and a hill, in the middle ground are three well-dressed people flanked on either side by bushes or shrubs, a woman sits on the ground and looks at the scenery through binoculars, a man points to the distance, and a standing woman looks through a telescope, in the distance is the Connecticut River and on either side of the river are the fertile agricultural fields, and in the distance are the mountains of the Holyoke Range. The painting is in a reproduction molded wood frame with gilt liner. The painting is not signed. Condition: the painting is in good condition and has been cleaned at Williamstown Art Conservation Center. Provenance: Purchased by William Hubbard along with residual Champney works from the Champney family in Greenfield, MA, c. 1960. A preliminary pencil and wash sketch is in the collection of Dr. George Humphreys, c. 1965. (whereabouts currently unknown).
When in Deerfield, James Wells Champney often sketched the local countryside which provided inspiration for his paintings. This work represents the quintessential view of the Connecticut River flowing south through cultivated farm fields toward the Holyoke Range — a landscape that has changed little today. Champney preferred to humanize his landscapes by putting figures in the foreground. Here a hiking party examines the scenery through a telescope and binoculars, hinting at the number of tourists attracted to the natural beauty and frontier history of the Connecticut River Valley during most of the 19th century.
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