Speed Art Museum

© John Nation 1998

Louisville, KY




Art & Nature: The Hudson River School


The exhibition "Art & Nature: The Hudson River School" is scheduled to open at The Speed Art Museum on June 27 and extend through August 27, 2000. "Art & Nature" offers 27 beautiful landscapes representing all the major artists associated with America's first school of landscape painting, the Hudson River School. The exhibition was organized by the Albany Institute of History & Art in Albany, New York, and has been circulated to seven museums across the United States by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services of Kansas City, Missouri. (left: Asher B. Durand (1796-1886), 1845, An Old Man's Reminiscences, oil on canvas)

The Hudson River School is a term applied to a group of American artists working in the mid-nineteenth century whose paintings stemmed from their pride in and their desire to capture the beauty of American landscape. Not a school in the traditional sense of the word, the Hudson River School instead was a loosely organized group of artists who shared a style and an attitude toward landscape painting.

Two of the earliest and most important among the Hudson River painters were Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand, who chose as their subjects the landscape surrounding New York's Hudson River, the Catskill Mountains, and other remote and untouched wilderness areas. In 1855, Durand, a theorist and leader of the group, published a series of "letters" to an imaginary student in which he outlined the aesthetic principles that guided the Hudson River School painters--the direct study of nature, the use of preparatory studies made out of doors, and the execution of carefully conceived paintings that captured the majesty of the American landscape. Today, paintings by members of the Hudson River School are admired for their dramatic depictions of nature, with subjects ranging from sublime views of wilderness to pastoral scenes and allegorical pictures with moral messages. At the height of the movement, paintings were often intended to celebrate the presence of God in nature. In keeping with the tenets of Romanticism, these artists saw the natural American environment as a source of divine expression. This exhibition focuses on the changing meaning of Hudson River School paintings over time. (left: Sanford R. Gifford (1823-1880), Mount Merino and the City of Hudson in Autumn, c. 1851-52, oil on canvas)

In addition to Cole and Durand, the exhibition features works by Frederic Edwin Church , Jasper F. Cropsey, Sanford Robinson Gifford, James McDougal Hart, William M. Hart, John Frederick Kensett, Homer Dodge Martin, David Johnson, John William Casilear and George Inness.


Read more about the Speed Art Museum in Resource Library Magazine

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 3/2/11

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