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The Hudson River School Collage

The Hudson River School

Started: 1826

Ended: 1870

The Hudson River School Timeline

Quotes

"I believe . . . that it is of the greatest importance for a painter always to have his mind upon nature, as the star by which he is to steer to excellence in his art."
Thomas Cole
"Amid those scenes of solitude... the mind is cast into the contemplation of eternal things."
Thomas Cole
"To walk with nature as a poet is the necessary condition of a perfect artist."
Thomas Cole
"The magnificent beauty of the natural world is a manifestation of the mysterious natural laws that will be forever obscured from us."
Albert Bierstadt
"Let me earnestly recommend...one studio which you may freely enter and receive in liberal measure the most sure and safe instruction...the Studio of Nature."
Asher B. Durand
"If your subject be a tree, observe particularly wherein it differs from those of other species...Every kind of tree has its traits of individuality - some kinds assimilate, others differ widely - with careful attention, these peculiarities are easily learned, and so, in a greater or lesser degree, with all other objects."
Asher B. Durand

KEY ARTISTS

Thomas ColeThomas Cole
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Asher B DurandAsher B Durand
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George InnessGeorge Inness
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Frederic Edwin ChurchFrederic Edwin Church
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Albert BierstadtAlbert Bierstadt
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"Truly all is remarkable and a wellspring of amazement and wonder. Man is so fortunate to dwell in this American Garden of Eden."

Albert Bierstadt Signature

Synopsis

Searching for a national style of art, the American landscape itself - large and untamed - was the primary focus of the Hudson River School painters. American expansion and Manifest Destiny imbued the untamed countryside with the symbolism of the country's promised prosperity and limitless resources. The terrain provided an alternative to European culture and history; it became a picturesque, patriotic, and inspirational theme. This loosely connected group of painters explored the nation, returning to their New York studios to paint large-scale works that thrilled audiences and celebrated the awesome power of nature and the progress of man.

Key Ideas

Long considered a profitable, but lowly, subject for serious artists (since it involved merely copying what was seen), landscape painting received new attention in the mid-19th century. Like Romantic painters in Britain and Germany, Hudson River School artists embraced the landscape as a meaningful subject, precisely as industrialization began to change terrains and reshape man's connection to his environment. The Americans both championed these forces of modernization and lamented what was lost in the name of "progress."
Generations of American painters had returned to Europe for training and adopted the styles and subjects of Old World artists. The Hudson River School painters desired a more native tradition, painting recognizably American scenes. Personally and professionally, they formed networks with writers and philosophers to create a distinct American culture.
Artists like Thomas Cole invested the landscape with symbolism, suggesting that these natural scenes could be transformed into meaningful allegories, as well as immersive and transformative experiences for the viewer. With their careful attention to realism and precise illusionism, as well as complex messaging and awe-inspiring vistas, the resulting canvases could be appreciated on both intellectual and emotional levels.
The second generation of Hudson River School painters left the New York area to explore more far-flung regions of America. Their painting documented westward expansion and reinforced the concept of Manifest Destiny. During the Civil War, their majestic images of an unspoiled West provided hope for post-war reconciliation and the promise of expanses of wild country, full of promise and unscarred by battle.

Beginnings

The Hudson River School Image

The Hudson River School: The Group and Term

The Hudson River School was neither a school nor art movement in the contemporary sense of the term, but a group of landscape painters who began working in the Hudson River Valley of New York State. The name for the group has been variously attributed to either the art critic Clarence Cook or the artist Homer Dodge Martin, but, in any case, it was coined as a disparaging term in the 1870s to suggest that the group's style and subject matter were passé and provincial.

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The Hudson River School Overview Continues

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Rebecca Seiferle

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Sarah Archino

" Movement Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Rebecca Seiferle
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Sarah Archino
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