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American Scenery: Different Views in Hudson River School Painting

August 7 - December 31, 2005


American Scenery: Different Views in Hudson River School Painting organized by the Westmoreland Museum of American Art (WMAA) will open on August 7 and run through December 31, 2005. This exhibition features landscape paintings grouped by pairs or arranged in series so the viewer can see how different generations of Hudson River School artists interpreted the majestic American landscape. The Hudson River School is considered by many to be the first truly American school of painting. The three generations of artists (71 in all) represented in the exhibition of 114 paintings are assembled from one private collection.

Flourishing between 1825 and 1875, but extending into the late 19th century, the Hudson River School involved three generations of painters and was not geographically confined to the Hudson River region. It was a movement that celebrated the vast natural resources of the American landscape just as it watched the onslaught of industrialization threaten that landscape while asserting the United States as a world power. The artists of the school were united by certain shared principles including a belief in natural religion, the magnificence of nature, and, specifically, the significance of the fresh, untamed American scenery reflecting our national character, as opposed to the civilized European landscape. They had a seemingly unlimited appetite for direct observation of the landscape around them, and were inspired by their constant awareness that in nature things change continually and nothing is ever stationary.

The Hudson River School included Thomas Cole, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Sanford Robinson Gifford, Asher B. Durand, Frederic Edwin Church, John Frederick Kensett, and John William Casilear, just a few of the major painters who produced paintings intended as pairs, series, and groups.

Published by Columbia University Press, the accompanying exhibition catalog titled Different Views in Hudson River School Painting includes full-color reproductions of all 114 paintings in the exhibition, an essay, a complete checklist, and descriptions of each pairing and grouping of paintings. The catalog's essay traces the tradition of pairs and series of paintings beginning with the medieval books of hours, through to Nicholas Poussin and Claude Lorraine whose paintings were known to and influenced the early painters of the Hudson River School. The school's founder, Thomas Cole painted in series in order to communicate his narrative themes, whose complicated imagery could not be accommodated in a single painting. Later artists of the school used other, more subtle methods of imbuing their landscapes with meaning, including using a set iconography that was known both to the artists and to their audience and included natural cycles such as seasons and times of day, light effects caused by weather, and the positioning of trees and animals within the landscape. The catalog will be available mid September at the WMAA Museum Shop or http://www.wmuseumaa.org. An early review of O'Toole's book describes it as "a study of significant importance that enriches our comprehension of a nineteenth century mindset."


Times of Day:

(above: Herman Fuechsel (1833-1915), Cows in the Hudson River, c.1875, oil on canvas, 10 x 20 inches)

(below: Joseph Antonio Hekking, Cows Watering in a Summer Landscape, c. 1870, oil on canvas, 20 x 36 inches) 


Weather Conditions and Mood:

(above: Arthur Parton (1842-1914), On the Hudson, 1879, oil on canvas, 12 1/4 x 20 inches)

(below: Alexander Lawrie (1842-1914), Cold Springs on Hudson, 1871, oil on canvas, 10 1/4 x 20 1/4 inches)


Gallery wall panel introductory text

This exhibition groups paintings by Hudson River School artists in pairs and series either intended as such by the artists or around recurrent themes of great significance to the movement. The underlying purpose of these groupings is to enable the contemporary viewer to more readily understand the artist's objectives by actively engaging in these comparisons and contrasts. The Hudson River School, considered by many to be the first truly American school of painting, flourished between 1825 and 1875. The movement was embraced by three generations of artists who shared common principles uniting them as a school despite their individual differences in style. Primary among these was a belief in natural religion, a deep admiration for the magnificence of nature, and a keen interest in the direct observation of nature. Most importantly, however, was an awareness of the fresh, untamed American scenery as reflective of the optimism and independence of our character as a young nation.


American Scenery will also travel to the following venues: Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, University of New York, New Paltz, NY (February 4 ­ May 27, 2006); Palmer Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA (October 7 ­ December 16, 2007) and others.


Programs for the exhibition

A variety of programs are offered in conjunction with the current exhibition. The public is invited to a free preview reception on Saturday, August 6 from 6:00 ­ 8:00 p.m. On Sunday, August 7, Judith Hansen O'Toole, WMAA Director/CEO, curator of the exhibition and author of the accompanying catalog, will lead a tour of the exhibition at 1:00 p.m. followed by a public reception featuring children's activities from 2:00 ­ 4:00 p.m. According to O'Toole, "American Scenery's themes of changing seasons, times of day, and weather conditions, inspired artists to create different views. The artists of the Hudson River School shared an interest in portraying different views of the untamed American landscape as reflection of our unique national character, and as a way of communicating universal truths and philosophical concepts."  

Other programs:

Thursday, September 8, 2005
Thursday Evening Lecture: A Look at American Scenery with Judith H. O'Toole
7:00 p.m.
Free and open to the public
Join the Westmoreland's Director/CEO Judith Hansen O'Toole for a gallery tour on the current exhibition of Hudson River School paintings and the artists who created them. O'Toole will discuss how the paintings are arranged, in pairs, series, and groups to emphasize certain collective ideas and share her insights into the organization of this exhibition. These artists shared a belief in natural religion, the magnificence of nature, and, specifically, the significance of the fresh, untamed American Scenery, which reflected our national character. Considered by many to be the first truly American school of painting, the Hudson River School flourished between 1825 and 1875. 
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Brown Bag Lecture: Artist Response By Charles "Bud" Gibbons
12:00 Noon
Free and open to the public
Please join artist Charles "Bud" Gibbons for his unique response to the current exhibition American Scenery: Different Views in Hudson River School Painting. As a celebrated landscape painter, Bud has had vast experience painting and interpreting the landscape of southwestern Pennsylvania as well as other areas of the country. He will share his daily trials and tribulations as a painter and give a slide presentation of his work and that of some of the artists who have inspired him in his career. Bud Gibbons is an Associate Professor of Art at Penn State New Kensington, where he has been teaching for 30 years. He has exhibited his paintings throughout the region including at the Westmoreland, The Andy Warhol Museum, Butler Institute of American Art, among numerous others. His work is held in public and private collections around the country, including his paintings Four Seasons on view in the WMAA's McKenna Gallery.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Thursday Evening Lecture By Hudson River School Scholar John Driscoll
7:00 P.M.
Free and open to the public
John Driscoll is director of New York City's Babcock Galleries and a noted scholar in American art. He is an expert on the works of Hudson River School painter John Frederick Kensett, whose catalog raisonne he is preparing. Among other books and articles, Driscoll is the author of All That is Glorious Around Us: Paintings of the Hudson River School, published in conjunction with an exhibition organized by the Westmoreland in 1997. Driscoll is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, and received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Pennsylvania State University. He was curator of the William H. Lane Foundation, a critic in Architecture at Yale University, and curator of the John F. Kensett: An American Master exhibition at the Worcester Art Museum. Dr. Driscoll serves on the advisory committee of the Palmer Museum of Art. He has also written numerous essays on American art for professional journals and exhibition catalogues on artists including John Casilear, George Curtis, Thomas Moran, William Trost Richards, Mardsen Hartley, Charles Sheeler, and Edwin Dickinson. 
Wednesday, October 5, 2005
Brown Bag Lecture: A Closer Look with Judith H. O'Toole
12:00 Noon
Free and open to the public
Join Judith O'Toole for a close examination of the work of the Hudson River School paintings and the artists included in the current exhibition American Scenery.  
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Thursday Evening Lecture: Patty Gallagher-The Dreams of Trees
7:00 p.m.
Free and open to the public
Please join artist Patty Gallagher for a lecture and slide presentation on her exhibition Patty Gallagher: The Dreams of Trees. She describes her exhibition as a site-specific work of mixed media/multi-media installation that is comprised of surreal, naturalistic costumes, motion, lights, sound, and photography which explore the extinction of native languages and sounds of the natural world that are disappearing forever. Gallagher is the 2003 recipient of The Westmoreland Exhibition Award selected from the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh annual exhibition. She exhibits her work throughout the region including Carnegie Museum of Art, The Frick Art Museum, The Andy Warhol Museum and Three Rivers Arts Festival. 

Editor's note: RL readers may also enjoy

these earlier articles and essays:


this VHS video:

Hudson River and its Painters, The is a 57 minute 1988 video from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Series released by Home Vision Entertainment. The mid-nineteenth century saw the growth of America's first native school of landscape painters, artists inspired by the compelling beauty of the Hudson River Valley, who portrayed this and other romantic wilderness areas with an almost mystical reverence. This 57 minute video explores the life and work of the major artists of what came to be known as the Hudson River School -- Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt, John Kensett, Jasper Cropsey, Worthington Whittredge, Sanford Gifford, and George Inness. Although its members traveled widely, the growth and development of the school were centered around New York City, and its success reflected the ambitions of the youthful American nation. It presents more than 200 paintings, prints and photographs of the period and juxtaposes them with dramatic location photography of the Hudson River area. The Hudson Company in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"The film highlights W. M. Chase's years at Shinnecock, on Long Island, NY, where in 1891 the artist established the first important outdoor summer school of art in America. Images of Chase's paintings and archival photographs--many of the artist's studios--are combined with footage of the hills and beaches at Shinnecock and of Chase's house and studio as they are today." (text courtesy Georgia Museum of Art)


online video:

The WGBH/Boston Forum Network includes a number of videos on Art and Architecture. Partners include a number of Boston-area museums, colleges, universities and other cultural organizations. Boston Athenaeum partnered with the Forum Network for a series of lectures on American art by David Dearinger, who is Susan Morse Hilles Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at the Boston Athenaeum. An art historian and curator, he received his Ph.D. from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, with a specialty in nineteenth-century American art. Titles include Hudson River School of American Landscape Painting, a general introduction to the famous Hudson River School of American landscape painting. [March 29, 2005]

WNET's Metro Arts Thirteen produced Hudson River School which begins with "The first coherent school of American art, the Hudson River painters, helped to shape the mythos of the American landscape. Beginning with the works of Thomas Cole (1801-1848) and Asher B. Durand (1796-1886) and evolving into the Luminist and late Romantic schools, landscape painting was the prevalent genre of 19th century American art." A video features Thomas Hampson on Duran's "Kindred Spirits."


Also see:


rev. 11/9/06

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