Hudson River School
The Hudson River School was a mid-19th century American art movement by a group of landscape painters,whose aesthetic vision was influenced by romanticism.Their paintings depict the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area,including the Catskill,Adirondack,and the White Mountains."School",in this sense,refers to a group of people whose outlook,inspiration,output,or style demonstrates a common thread,rather than a learning institution.
Neither the originator of the term Hudson River School nor its first published use has been fixed with certainty.It is thought to have originated with the New York Tribune art critic Clarence Cook or the landscape painter Homer D.Martin.As originally used,the term was meant disparagingly,as the work so labelled had gone out of favor when the Barbizon School and Impressionism came into vogue.
Hudson River School paintings reflect three themes of America in the 19th century:discovery,exploration,and settlement.The paintings also depict the American landscape as a pastoral setting,where human beings and nature coexist peacefully.Hudson River School landscapes are characterized by their realistic,detailed,and sometimes idealized portrayal of nature along with the juxtaposition of colonialism and wilderness.In general,Hudson River School artists believed that nature in the form of the American landscape was an ineffable manifestation of God,though the artists varied in the depth of their religious conviction.They took as their inspiration such European masters as Claude Lorrain,John Constable and J.M.W.Turner,and shared a reverence for America's natural beauty with contemporary American writers such as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
While the elements of the paintings are rendered very realistically,many of the actual scenes are the synthesized compositions of multiple scenes or natural images observed by the artists.In gathering the visual data for their paintings,the artists would travel to rather extraordinary and extreme environments,the likes of which would not permit the act of painting.During these expeditions,sketches and memories would be recorded and the paintings would be rendered later,upon the artists'safe return home.
See Art History Come to Life on the Hudson River School Art Trail
The Hudson River School Art Trail takes you to the sites that inspired Americas first great landscape painters,enabling you to walk in the footsteps of Thomas Cole,Frederic Church,Asher B.Durand,Jasper Cropsey,Sanford Gifford and other pioneering American artists,and to see the landscapes that launched the Hudson River School of art.
On this website you will see some of the magnificent paintings these artists created,compared with photographs of the same views today.You can also download a map and directions to guide you to the actual views,which are all within 15miles of the 19th-century homes of Thomas Cole and Frederic Church,two of the Hudson Valley's most significant historic sites,which together form the anchor of the Trail.
The artist Thomas Cole is generally acknowledged as the founder of the Hudson River School.Cole took a steamship up the Hudson in the autumn of 1825,the same year the Erie Canal opened,stopping first at West Point,then at Catskill landing where he ventured west high up into the eastern Catskill Mountains of New York State to paint the first landscapes of the area.The first review of his work appeared in the New York Evening Post on Nov.22,1825.At that time,only the English native Cole,born in a monochromatic green landscape,found the brilliant autumn hues of the area unusual.Cole's close friend,Asher Durand,became a prominent figure in the school as well,particularly when the banknote-engraving business evaporated in the Panic of 1837.
The second generation of Hudson River school artists emerged to prominence after Cole's premature death in 1848,including Cole's prize pupil Frederic Edwin Church,John Frederick Kensett,and Sanford Robinson Gifford.Works by artists of this second generation are often described as examples of Luminism,or the Luminist movement in American art.In addition to pursuing their art,many of the artists,including Kensett.Gifford and Church,were founders of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Most of the finest works of the Hudson River school were painted between 1855and 1875.During that time,artists like Frederic Edwin Church and Albert Bierstadt were treated like major celebrities.When Church exhibited paintings like Niagara or Icebergs of the North ,thousands of people would line up around the block and pay fifty cents a head to view the solitary work.The epic size of the landscapes in these paintings reminded Americans of the vast,untamed,but magnificent wilderness areas in their country,and their works helped build upon movements to settle the American West,preserve national parks,and create city parks.
One of the largest collections of paintings by artists of the Hudson River School is at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford,Connecticut.Some of the most notable works in the Atheneum's collection are 13landscapes by Thomas Cole,and 11by Hartford native Frederic Edwin Church,both of whom were personal friends of the museum's founder,Daniel Wadsworth.Other important collections of Hudson River School art can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New-York Historical Society,both in Manhattan,NY;the Brooklyn Museum in Brooklyn,NY;the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie,NY;the Olana State Historic Site (Frederick E.Church's home)near Hudson,NY;the National Gallery of Art in Washington,DC;the Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit,MI;the Albany Institute of History &Art in Albany,New York;the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa,Oklahoma;the Newark Museum in Newark,NJ;and the Westervelt Warner Museum of American Art in Tuscaloosa,Alabama.
Noteworthy artists of the Hudson River School
Main article:List of Hudson River School artists
John William Casilear
Frederic Edwin Church
Jasper Francis Cropsey
Asher Brown Durand
Sanford Robinson Gifford
James McDougal Hart
William Stanley Haseltine
Martin Johnson Heade
Hermann Ottomar Herzog
John Frederick Kensett
Robert Walter Weir
Howat,John K.American Paradise,The World of the Hudson River School.The Metropolitan Museum of Art,Harry N.Abrams,Inc.,New York,1987.
HUDSON RIVER SCHOOL
The first coherent school of American art,the Hudson River painters,helped to shape the mythos of the American landscape.Beginning with the works of Thomas Cole (1801-1848)and Asher B.Durand (1796-1886)and evolving into the Luminist and late Romantic schools,landscape painting was the prevalent genre of 19th century American art.
With roots in European Romanticism and with correspondences to European painters such as the Nazarenes and Caspar David Friedrich in Germany or John Constable and Joseph Turner in England,the Hudson River painters,nonetheless,set about to heed Emerson's call "to ignore the courtly Muses of Europe"and define a distinct vision for American art.The artists who came to maturity in the years of egalitarian Jacksonian democracy and expansion translated these ideals into an aesthetic that was sweeping and spontaneous.Like the vast nation that lay before them,which they celebrated not chauvinistically but with a sense of awe for its majestic natural resources and a feeling of optimism for the huge potential it held,the Hudson River painters depicted a New World wilderness in which man,minuscule as he was beside the vastness of creation,nevertheless retained that divine spark that completed the circle of harmony.
As Thomas Cole maintained,if nature were untouched by the hand of man--as was much of the primeval American landscape in the early 19th century--then man could become more easily acquainted with the hand of God.Sharing the philosophy of the American Transcendentalists,the Hudson River painters created visual embodiments of the ideals about which Emerson,Thoreau,William Cullen Bryant,and Whitman wrote.Concurring with Emerson,who had written in his 1841essay,THOUGHTS ON ART,that painting should become a vehicle through which the universal mind could reach the mind of mankind,the Hudson River painters believed art to be an agent of moral and spiritual transformation.
The impetus to celebrate the glories of the Hudson Valley began before Thomas Cole with painters such as Thomas Doughty,Thomas Chambers,and Jasper Francis Cropsey,but it was Cole with his literary and dramatic instincts and his years of European study who made the most coherent and articulated case for a new art for a new land.With Asher B.Durand,he did much to revolutionize not only the styles and themes of American painting,but the methods.Cole sketched from nature,frequently dramatic vistas in the Catskills or White Mountains,and then returned to his studio to compose his large scale canvasses,alive with tactile brushwork and atmospheric lighting that seemed to breathe.
Luminists &Late Romantics
The influence of the Hudson River School was carried into the mid-19th century by artists like John Frederick Kensett and Martin Johnson Heade,who came to be known as Luminists because of their experiments with the effects of light on water and sky,and by Frederic Edwin Church.Church,who based himself in his panoramic home in the Catskills at Olana,sought more extensive horizons for his canvasses.Like Walt Whitman he tried to contain multitudes.He traveled the globe,painting scenery from the Hudson Valley to the American West to the Andes,Amazon,and Arctic,and he laid the foundation for the post-Civil War generation of landscape painters,among them Albert Bierstadt and George Inness.
Apainting which has become a virtual emblem for the Hudson River School is the dramatic 46"x 36"canvas by Asher B.Durand,KINDRED SPIRITS,which hangs in New York City's Public Library.In it Durand depicts himself,together with Cole,on a rocky promontory in serene contemplation of the scene before them:the gorge with its running stream,the gossamer Catskill mists shimmering in a palette of subtle colors,framed by foliage.In the foreground stands one of the school's famous symbols--a broken tree stump--what Cole called a "memento mori"or reminder that life is fragile and impermanent;only Nature and the Divine within the Human Soul are eternal.Tiny as the human beings are in this composition,they are nevertheless elevated by the grandeur of the landscape in which they are in harmony.As Cole and Durand firmly believed,if the American landscape was a new Garden of Eden,then it was they,as artists,who kept the keys of entry.