Famous Painters of the Hudson River School of Art
The Hudson River School of Art was founded in the early 19th century and was exclusively established for artists and painters. The school was founded by a famous English-born American artist, Thomas Cole around 1825. The opening of the school was inspired by Romanticism, a style that evolved as a reaction against the controlled academics of the art establishment.
The schools’ student was a loose-knit group of artists who lived and worked in New York. They were established members of clubs like the National Academy, an association founded in New York City in 1825 to promote the fine arts in America through instruction and exhibition, the Century Association, a private club for the exhibition of art created by its members, and/or the Tenth Street Studio Building, the first modern facility designed solely to serve the needs of artists and painters.
What Influenced the Painters of the Hudson River School?
There was a new awakening that was influenced by ‘romantic writers’ like Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper including several other literary authors and soon became known as the first American authors to develop a uniquely American style of writing.
The "romantic" influence of these early American writers in the wake of the early 19th century earned them commendations in Europe, an important factor that contributed greatly to the movement.
The influence of writers, particularly J. F. Cooper who wrote numerous sea-stories and historical romance tales like “Leather Stocking Tales”, and the opening of the Erie Canal, made these group of landscape artists come together to form what we know as the Hudson River Valley school.
It became a novel development of a nationalistic spirit with an increasing desire to create an awareness and appreciation of indigenous art and produce uniquely American works of art.
The works of art for which the movement is named illustrates the Hudson River Valley and its environs, including the White Mountains, the Catskill, and Adirondack. The paintings of the landscape artists of the school were mainly pastoral settings where nature and humans coexist in peaceful harmony.
It is pertinent to note that the Hudson River School refers to a group of people with a common focus, rather than a regular educational institution.
Characteristics of Hudson River School Paintings
Hudson River School landscapes paintings are characterized by detailed, realistic, and perfect representations of nature, often contrasted with peaceful agriculture and wilderness views appreciated for its sublime qualities and rugged features. There was also the tendency to omit details in order to more clearly articulate the different moods of nature they try to capture in their paintings.
Majorly, the paintings reflected the interests of the day and the literature of the period.
The paintings of Asher B. Durand and Thomas Doughty, for instance, which consisted mostly of West Point and neighbouring landscape views, and Thomas Cole’s panoramic scenes of New England, expressed the schools love and adoption of the American scenery. This was evident in all their paintings of actual and realistic views.
A famous painting by Frederick E. Church – “Heart of the Andes” – on display in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a good example of early American painting that shows the natural wonders of the land. He was a great illustrator of still life and a painter of the wonderful vast spaces of the West.
Famous American Painters of the Hudson River School
Some of the earliest artists and landscape painters associated with the Hudson River School include:
- James Fenimore Cooper (1789 to 1851
- Thomas Doughty (1793 to 1856)
- Asher Brown Durand (1796 to 1886)
- Thomas Cole (1801 to 1848)
- Robert Walter Weir (1803 to 1889)
- John William Casilear (1811 to 1893)
- John Frederick Kensett (1816 to 1872)
- Martin Johnson Heade (1819 to 1904)
- Worthington Whittredge (1820 to 1910)
- Robert Duncanson (1821 to 1872)
- Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823 to 1880)
- William Hart (1823 to 1894)
- Frederic Edwin Church (1826 to 1900)
Most of the finest landscape paintings of the Hudson River School of art were painted between the mid-1850s to the late 1870s.
The Hudson River School ended with the works of Homer Martin, George Inness and Alexander Wyatt. These three artists are perhaps the first painters to paint landscapes where the importance of the subject matter is dominated by the artist’s conception. In their art, there was a tendency to omit detail in order to more clearly articulate the different moods of nature.
By the mid-19th century, even though the affluent elites bought the paintings of European artists, after the end of the Civil War, the Americans developed an artistic consciousness that saw many individualists producing pictures that were more indigenous than its subject matter.
Hudson River School of Art Famous Paintings
Some of the famous paintings produced in the Hudson School of Art include the following:
- Distant View of Niagara Falls (by Thomas Cole in 1830)
- The Falls of Tequendama (by Frederic E. Church in 1854)
- Rocky Mountains (by Albert Bierstadt in 1863)
- View on the Catskill - Early Autumn (by Thomas Cole in 1837)
- The Heart of the Andes (painted by Frederic E. Church in 1859)
- Niagara Falls (by Frederic E. Church in 1867)
Other successful artists associated with the running of the Hudson Valley school include Albert Bierstadt (1830 to 1902), a German-American artist, and the wilderness painter and a former student of Thomas Cole, Frederic E. Church (1826-1900).
After Thomas Cole passed on, the President of the highly influential National Academy of Design Asher B. Durand took over as leader of the Hudson River School. In the late 1850s, Durand published a series of "Letters on Landscape Painting" which outlined the qualities of the School's signature style of ideal naturalism.
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