MASTERPIECES OF THE HUDSON RIVER SCHOOL COME HOME TO THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Unsurpassed Collection of Hudson River School Paintings Completes a Two-Year National Tour and Returns to New York on September 21, 2012
NEW YORK, NY, August 28, 2012 – After a national tour, forty-five iconic works in the New-York Historical Society’s Hudson River School Paintings collection will return to the museum. The display will feature masterworks by Thomas Cole, John F. Kensett, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Church, Jasper F. Cropsey, and Asher B. Durand, with highlights to include Cole’s renowned five-part series The Course of Empire.
The Hudson River School emerged during the second quarter of the nineteenth century in New York City, when a loosely knit group of artists and writers forged the first self-consciously American landscape vision and literary voice. That American vision—still widely influential today—was grounded in a view of the natural world as a source of spiritual renewal and an expression of national identity. This vision was first expressed through the magnificent scenery of the Hudson River Valley region, including the Catskills, which was accessible to writers, artists, and sightseers via traffic on the great river that gave the school its name.
Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of New-York Historical, commented, “The New-York Historical Society houses one of the oldest and most comprehensive collections of landscape paintings by artists of the Hudson River School, and we are excited to have these works back on view in New York for our visitors.”
The paintings toured the United States from 2011-2012 in the major exhibition Nature and the American Vision: Masterpieces of the Hudson River School, allowing audiences to enjoy and study superb examples of Hudson River School paintings while New-York Historical was closed for a transformative $70 million renovation project, which was completed in November 2011. Nature and the American Vision travelled to The Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX (February 26 – June 19, 2011); the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA (July 30 – November 6, 2011); the Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC (November 17, 2011 – April 1, 2012); and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR (May 5 – September 3, 2012).
New works to be incorporated into the exhibition that were not in the traveling show include:
• newly conserved Studies from Nature by Durand as well as a number of important landscapes that have been recently been treated;
• Pool in the Catskills, c. 1870, a rare landscape painting by Durand's only female student, Mary Josephine Walters;
• Morning in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia, c. 1859, a large major work by William Sonntag that has not been displayed in decades;
• and two charming Italian landscapes by the African-American landscape painter, Robert S. Duncanson, on loan from Charlynn and Warren Goins.
Plan of the Exhibition
Organized in four thematic sections, the Hudson River School paintings display showcases how American artists embodied powerful ideas about nature, culture and history—including the belief that a special providence was manifest to Americans in the continent’s sublime landscape.
The American Grand Tour features paintings of the Catskill, Adirondack, and White Mountain regions celebrated for their scenic beauty and historic sites, as well as views of Lake George, Niagara Falls and the New England countryside—destinations that most powerfully attracted both artists and travelers. The American Grand Tour also includes paintings that memorialize the Hudson River itself as the gateway to the touring destinations and primary sketching grounds for American landscape painters.
American Artists A-Field includes works by Hudson River School artists who, after 1850, sought inspiration further from home. The paintings of Frederic Edwin Church, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Hill, and Martin Johnson Heade depict how these globe-trotting painters embraced the role of artist-explorer and thrilled audiences with images of the landscape wonders of such far-flung places as the American frontier, Yosemite Valley, and South America.
Dreams of Arcadia: Americans in Italy features paintings by Cole, Cropsey, Sanford R. Gifford, and others that celebrate Italy as the center of the Old World and the principal destination for Americans on the European Grand Tour. Viewed as the storehouse of Western culture, Italy was a living laboratory of the past, with its cities, galleries, and countryside offering a survey of the artistic heritage from antiquity, as well as a striking contrast to the wilderness vistas of North America portrayed by these same artists.
In the final section of the exhibition, Grand Landscape Narratives, all of these ideas converge in Thomas Cole’s five-painting series The Course of Empire (c. 1834-1836), which imagines the rise of a great civilization from an unspoiled landscape, and the ultimate decay of that civilization into ruins scattered in the same wilderness. These celebrated paintings explore the tension between Americans’ deep veneration of the wilderness and their equally ardent celebration of progress, recapitulating the larger story told in Nature and the American Vision.
Catalogue to Accompany the Exhibition
The ideas and beliefs explored in the exhibition are also investigated in an award-winning 224-page catalogue by Linda S. Ferber: The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision, published by Skira Rizzoli Publications, Inc. Featuring 150 full-color illustrations of works from the acclaimed collection of the New-York Historical Society, the catalogue places the splendid paintings in the traveling exhibition into a broad historical and cultural context. Dr. Ferber received the 2010 Henry Allen Moe Prize for Catalogues of Distinction in the Arts from the New York State Historical Association for the volume.
About the Hudson River School Collection of the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society's rich holdings of American art date back to the second half of the nineteenth century, when the museum acquired, through generous donation, the extensive painting collections formed by pioneering New York art patron Luman Reed (1787-1836). By 1944, New-York Historical was also home to the extraordinary collection of Hudson River School art amassed by Robert Leighton Stuart (1806-1882), another of New York's prominent nineteenth-century art patrons. Works once belonging to these pioneering American collectors form the core of the traveling exhibition.
About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.
New-York Historical is recognized for engaging the public with deeply researched and far-ranging exhibitions, such as Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America; Slavery in New York; Drawn by New York: Six Centuries of Watercolors and Drawings at the New-York Historical Society; Grant and Lee in War and Peace; Lincoln and New York; and Making American Taste: Narrative Art for a New Democracy. Supporting these exhibitions and related education programs is one of the world’s greatest collections of historical artifacts, works of American and European art, and material culture documenting the history of the United States and New York.
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