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Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire

Not on view

Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire

Artist: John F. Kensett (American, 1816-1872)

Date: 1850
Medium: Charcoal on buff-colored, medium-weight wove paper
Overall: 9 7/8 × 13 3/4in. (25.1 × 34.9cm)
Framed: 16 × 22in. (40.6 × 55.9cm)
Inscribed: Recto, lower left (charcoal?): "M. Lafayette / Oct. 22, '50" Lower right (charcoal?): "JF.K." Verso, lower right (graphite): "16501" (enclosed in a rectangle)
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 86.31
Text Entries

Kensett made this drawing in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the autumn of 1850 while traveling with the artist Benjamin Champney.(1) The two men arrived in early July,(2) and the weeks they spent at North Conway near Crawford Notch mark the beginning of the artists’ colony that developed there.(3) Kensett also worked in the region around Mt. Lafayette, near Franconia Notch at the western end of the White Mountains.(4) Artists have not depicted Mt. Lafayette as often as some of the other peaks in the region. On the same day that Kensett sketched Mt. Lafayette he also made at least one tree study.(5)

The MWPI drawing shows a gentle sloping foreground unfolding to a valley dotted with farmhouses and a grove of trees in the middle distance. This gives way to the distant peak of Mt. Lafayette whose “air-drawn” profile Kensett outlined and, in some sections, erased and redrew.(6) The tripartite compositional formula Kensett employed in the MWPI drawing was one with which he was comfortable; he used it again to great effect the following year in his important painting, The White Mountains—from North Conway (Wellesley College Museum, Wellesley, Mass.).(7)

Driscoll and Howat have noted that the vigorously wrought foreground of the MWPI drawing presages comparable passages in some of the drawings Kensett made in Ireland in 1856.(8) The technical contrast Kensett achieved in the MWPI drawing between the forcefully drawn foreground details and the delicately rendered contours of Mt. Lafayette demonstrates what was acknowledged in the nineteenth century to be the expressive potential, albeit limited tonal range, of line drawing.(9)


1. John Driscoll has noted that the MWPI drawing is one of the few Kensett ever signed. See Driscoll, Kensett Drawings, 17-20, 59.

2. Driscoll and Howat, Kensett, 63.

3. Barbara J. MacAdam, “A Proper Distance from the Hills: Nineteenth Century Landscape Painting in North Conway,“ in “A Sweet Foretaste of Heaven”: Artists in the White Mountains, 1830-1930 (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1988), 22.

4. Driscoll, Kensett Drawings, 58-64. At least four of the drawings Kensett made at Franconia Notch (Driscoll, Kensett Drawings, cat. nos. 44, 45, 47, and 48) were drawn on paper the same size as the MWPI sheet.

5. Driscoll, Kensett Drawings, 62 and 64 no. 47.

6. Champney used this term to describe the appearance of some of the White Mountain peaks. See Driscoll and Howat, Kensett, 63.

7. Ibid., 63-70.

8. Ibid., 121. This contrast can be seen in other drawings as well, such as his 1853

study of Lake George. See ibid., 96, fig. 59.

9. Philip G. Hamerton, The Graphic Arts: A Treatise on the Varieties of Drawing, Painting, and Engraving (London: Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday, 1882), 106-7.


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