Tag Archives: The Spirit of War by Jasper Francis Cropsey 1851

#FineArtFriday: The Spirit of War by Jasper Francis Cropsey 1851

The spirit of war

Title: The Spirit of War by Jasper Francis Cropsey  (1823–1900)

Genre: landscape

Date: 1851

Medium: painting

Dimensions: Height: 110.8 cm (43.6 in); Width: 171.6 cm (67.5 in)

Collection: National Gallery of Art

Place of creation: United States of America [1]

What I love about this painting:

The Spirit of War by Jasper Francis Cropsey is one of a two-part fantasy that Cropsey painted in 1851; the other is the Spirit of Peace. During Cropsey’s lifetime, these two paintings were his most celebrated, but now he is known more for his ethereal paintings depicting autumn scenes, several of which I have featured here.

This painting was inspired both by the aftermath of the Mexican-American War and the looming threat of the American Civil War. It shows the young artist’s love of Arthurian tales and demonstrates his ability to deliver a story. His signature luminism is still in its infancy here, yet one can see the seeds of what would become a mastery of light and illumination.

Cropsey contrasts light and shadow as if they were good and evil. He paints godlike mountains that reign over deep valleys and strongholds. In the foreground, a strong fortress represents prosperity, her richly attired knights riding out to do battle. In the distance, a citadel burns, the smoke of raging fires billowing toward the darkening sky.

This is a powerful painting, one that tells a story and shows an entire novel.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Jasper Francis Cropsey (February 18, 1823 – June 22, 1900) was an important American landscape artist of the Hudson River School.

Trained as an architect, he set up his own office in 1843. Cropsey studied watercolor and life drawing at the National Academy of Design under the instruction of Edward Maury and first exhibited there in 1844. A year later he was elected an associate member and turned exclusively to landscape painting; shortly after he was featured in an exhibition entitled “Italian Compositions”.

Cropsy traveled in Europe from 1847–1849, visiting England, France, Switzerland, and Italy. He was elected a full member of the Academy in 1851. Cropsey was a personal friend of Henry Tappan, the president of the University of Michigan from 1852 to 1863. At Tappan’s invitation, he traveled to Ann Arbor in 1855 and produced two paintings, one of the Detroit Observatory, and a landscape of the campus. He went abroad again in 1856, and resided seven years in London, sending his pictures to the Royal Academy and to the International exhibition of 1862.

Returning home, he opened a studio in New York and specialized in autumnal landscape paintings of the northeastern United States, often idealized and with vivid colors. Cropsey co-founded, with ten fellow artists, the American Society of Painters in Water Colors in 1866.

Cropsey’s interest in architecture continued throughout his life and was a strong influence in his painting, most evident in his precise arrangement and outline of forms. But Cropsey was best known for his lavish use of color and, as a first-generation member from the Hudson River School, painted autumn landscapes that startled viewers with their boldness and brilliance. As an artist, he believed landscapes were the highest art form and that nature was a direct manifestation of God. He also felt a patriotic affiliation with nature and saw his paintings as depicting the rugged and unspoiled qualities of America. [2]


Credits and Attributions:

[1] Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:The-spirit-of-war.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:The-spirit-of-war.jpg&oldid=565046310 (accessed June 17, 2021).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Jasper Francis Cropsey,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jasper_Francis_Cropsey&oldid=1018920537 (accessed June 17, 2021).

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