John La Farge (1835–1910

Paradise Valley, 1866–68

Oil on canvas, 32 5/8 x 42 in. (82.9 x 106.7 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1996.92

John La Farge was an influential painter, muralist, stained glass maker, and writer. This early landscape painting depicts a view from the Paradise Hills, outside Newport, Rhode Island, where the artist vacationed in the post–Civil War years. A verdant coastal pasture, animated with grazing cows and sheep, stretches toward the Atlantic Ocean. A solitary lamb, a Christian symbol of peace, reclines on the green turf. With its generous scale and high horizon, La Farge’s canvas offers a pastoral vision of tranquility and also reflects his growing interest in the compositional aesthetics of Japanese art. La Farge painted Paradise Valley outdoors, defying the traditional studio practice of composing from sketches made on-site. The work’s detailed clarity reveals the influence of the English critic John Ruskin (1819–1900) and his doctrine of painting with exact fidelity to nature, as well as La Farge’s familiarity with then-current scientific theories of visual perception and color.

Learn more about this painting on the Terra Foundation website.