The Maier Museum of Art
at Randolph College

John Frederick Kensett’s “On the Connecticut Shore” by Joseph Stanton

After On the Connecticut Shore (1871) by John Frederick Kensett

In the summers of 1871 and 1872,
Kensett painted his best luminisms.
but his leap into the deep cold
of Long Island Sound—

in a heroic, futile attempt
to rescue his friend’s drowning wife—
led to the pneumonia that took his life
and made those summers’ works his last.

He has made this Connecticut shore
a meeting of the exquisitely real
and the profoundly abstract—
a painting, seemingly,

as pure as pure can be,
but Kensett, we know, wanted only
to show what sea can do
to light.


Joseph Stanton is a Professor Emeritus of Art History and American Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His poems have appeared previously in Poetry, New Letters, Harvard Review, Antioch Review, Ekphrasic Review, and many other publications. Three of his six collections of poems are ekphrastic. Information about his 2019 collection, Moving Pictures, is available at the publisher’s website.