Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School

September 21, 2012
February 20, 2013

After a national tour, the forty-five iconic works, including Thomas Cole’s five-part series The Course of Empire and other masterworks by Cole, John F. Kensett, Albert Bierstadt, Jasper F. Cropsey, Asher B. Durand and others will once again be on display at the New-York Historical Society. This exhibition showcases the extraordinary depth and richness of the New-York Historical Society’s landscape collections, especially paintings by artists of the Hudson River School. Rising to eminence in New York during the mid-nineteenth century, this loosely knit group of artists, together with like-minded poets and writers, forged a self-consciously “American” landscape vision and literary voice. Both were grounded in the exploration of the natural world as a resource for spiritual renewal and as an expression of cultural and national identity. 

The Hudson River and the natural wonders along its banks had a long history of associations with earlier inhabitants, including Native Americans, the Dutch, and the British. Key battles of the American Revolution were fought along the river’s course. Such historical associations amid the evocative terrain of the Catskills, Adirondacks, and White Mountains enriched regional sites throughout the Hudson River Valley and New England, inspiring homegrown schools of painting and literature grounded in their scenery and history. After 1850 Hudson River School artists also sought inspiration further from home, enlisting their artistic vision the Arctic, and the Andes.

The paintings in the exhibition are organized around themes that illuminate the sites that drew both artists and travelers. Other themes investigate landscape imagery as a powerful narrative device that embodied ideas about nature and culture.

Creative: Tronvig Group