Following a path established by earlier American landscape painters, beginning most notably with Thomas Cole, George Inness traveled to Italy for the first time in 1851. From this and a subsequent trip from 1870 to 1874, Inness produced many of his most memorable and renowned paintings. As noted by the great nineteenth century art historian, Henry T. Tuckerman: “A visit to Italy is perhaps more of an epoch in the life of an American artist than in that of any other. The contrast between the new and old civilization, the diversity in modes of life, and especially the kindling associations which the enchantment of distance and long anticipation occasion, makes his sojourn there an episode in life.” (as quoted in T.E. Stebbins, Jr., The Lure of Italy, American Artists and the Italian Experience, 1760-1914, New York, 1992, p. 19)
Noting Inness’s willingness to pursue Italian subjects less familiar to an educated public, apparently in contrast to his American predecessors, Theodore Stebbins writes that the artist “was one of the first to go far a field, painting both traditional subjects such as Albano and Nebi, but also depicting anonymous Umbrian hillsides and bridges near Perugia. Inness’s trip of 1870-1874 was paid for by his dealer, to whom he sent the nearly two hundred resulting paintings- testimony to the constant popularity of Italian subjects for the American audience. Interestingly, Inness's Italian scenes are difficult to identify topographically; they relate more to the classical tradition than to the topographical view. Inness may thus be seen as one of the latest Americans to follow in the footsteps of Claude Lorrain; his modern style which rejected Hudson River School literalism, suited the classical mode well.” (The Lure of Italy, American Artists and the Italian Experience, 1760-1914, p. 57) Masterworks of Italy by Inness are included in the collections of numerous public institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, National Gallery of Art and the The Phillips Collection, Washington DC, the Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri, and the Timken Art Gallery, San Diego, among others.
While in Italy, Inness visited other Americans living there, including the painter Elihu Vedder, who had settled near Perugia. In addition he became acquainted with the American consul in Rome, Maitland Armstrong, also an artist. Armstrong and Inness reputedly met while Inness sketched the ruins in the Roman countryside. Armstrong described Inness in his reminiscences as “a small, nervous man, with ragged hair and beard, and a vivacious manner, and excellent talker and much occupied with theories and methods of painting, and also of religion….on the whole he was an interesting man and undoubtedly one of the first American painters.” (as quoted in T.E. Stebbins, W.H. Gerdts, “Some Reminiscences of George Inness,” George Inness; Presence of the Unseen, Montclair, New Jersey, 1994, p. 14)