George Inness, Sr.

American, 1825-1894

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The Coming Storm, 1878

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oil on canvas


support: 26 x 38 1/2 inches (66.04 x 97.79 cm); framed: 37 x 50 x 4 inches (93.98 x 127 x 10.16 cm)

Collection Buffalo AKG Art Museum


Albert H. Tracy Fund, 1900

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The subject of this composition, the coming storm, was a popular one in nineteenth-century Romantic painting. George Inness created more than two-dozen works on the theme over a thirty-year period. In this instance, the billowing clouds and etheric light caused by the approaching squall further imbued transcendental meaning into this subject. Dissimilar to many of his contemporaries who chose to portray the untamed wilderness, Inness, like the French Barbizon painters, preferred a more intimate, domesticated, or in his words, “civilized” landscape. His theories and ideas were influenced by the philosophy of Emanuel Swedenborg (Swedish, 1688–1772), whose writing he first encountered in the early 1850s. The Coming Storm presents a heroic vision in which the small human figure in the bottom-left foreground gives psychological as well as physical scale to the storm. Like Swedenborg, Inness came to believe that nature reflected the spiritual realm in which humans are a part of a harmonious whole, neither subordinate to it nor totally dominant.