This large pastoral landscape shows the influence of the French Barbizon School on American artists like Minor. The Barbizon artists painted in the open air, and their favored artistic retreat was the Forest of Fontainbleau outside Paris. The “vail” or valley of the River Kennet, in the countryside east of Cambridge, England was the subject of Minor’s painting.
Minor spent ten years touring and studying in Europe. He then took up a New York City studio in the 1870s, and painted landscape scenes from the Adirondacks and Connecticut. Frederick and Julia Billings probably purchased this painting from the artist in 1882. In June 1886 Frederick Billings noted that he had “Sent Minor Vale of Kennett to Woodstock [from New York].”