Washington Irving's Sketch Book, published serially in London and New York journals in 1820, captivated readers worldwide. Quidor's Return of Rip Van Winkle accurately sets the scene in the Catskills and shows brick houses with step-gabled, Dutch roofs. The mountains and buildings are the only familiar elements to poor Rip, who'd been drugged by Henry Hudson's enchanted crew twenty years earlier. Having slept through the Revolutionary War, Rip finds a flag bearing "a singular assemblage of stars and stripes," while the face of King George on the tavern's sign has been repainted to that of an unknown George named Washington.

Quidor's painting is a perfect pantomime to the climax of Irving's story, as Rip discovers -- to his bewilderment -- that he has a son and grandson, both namesakes. The scene is animated by thick strokes of pure white paint, phantom highlights within the golden, dreamlike haze. Quidor's obsession with depicting Rip Van Winkle has been interpreted as indicative of the artist's own search for acceptance. Although Quidor spent four years training under a society portraitist and occasionally exhibited pictures of literary themes at the National Academy of Design, he had to earn his living by painting signs and decorating fire engines.

More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication _American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part II,_ pages 81-86, which is available as a free PDF (21MB).<u> </u>


  • Title: The Return of Rip Van Winkle
  • Creator: John Quidor
  • Date Created: 1849
  • Physical Dimensions: overall: 101 x 126.5 cm (39 3/4 x 49 13/16 in.) framed: 139.1 x 159.4 x 9.5 cm (54 3/4 x 62 3/4 x 3 3/4 in.)
  • Provenance: (Augustus W. Oberwalder [Augustus De Forest], New York);[1] purchased 13 December 1920 by Thomas B. Clarke [1848-1931], New York; his estate; sold as part of the Clarke collection 29 January 1936, through (M. Knoedler & Co., New York), to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1942 to NGA. [1] Quidor offered the painting for sale to the American Art Union in 1850; the offer was declined and the painting returned as of February 1851. See American Art Union, Register of Works of Art 1848-1851 and Letters from Artists, both at the New York Historical Society (copies NGA curatorial files).
  • Medium: oil on canvas

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps