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The Hudson River School was a mid-19th century American art movement embodied by a group of landscape painters whose aesthetic vision was influenced by romanticism. The paintings for which the movement is named depict the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area, including the Catskill, Adirondack, and the White Mountains; eventually works by the second generation of artists associated with the school expanded to include other locales in New England, the Maritimes, the American West, and South America.


Neither the originator of the term Hudson River School nor its first published use has been fixed with certainty. The term is thought to have originated with the New York Tribune art critic Clarence Cook or the landscape painter Homer D. Martin.[1] As originally used, the term was meant disparagingly, as the work so labeled had gone out of favor after the plein-air Barbizon School had come into vogue among American patrons and collectors.

Hudson River School paintings reflect three themes of America in the 19th century: discovery, exploration, and settlement. The paintings also depict the American landscape as a pastoral setting, where human beings and nature coexist peacefully. Hudson River School landscapes are characterized by their realistic, detailed, and sometimes idealized portrayal of nature, often juxtaposing peaceful agriculture and the remaining wilderness, which was fast disappearing from the Hudson Valley just as it was coming to be appreciated for its qualities of ruggedness and sublimity. In general, Hudson River School artists believed that nature in the form of the American landscape was an ineffable manifestation of God, though the artists varied in the depth of their religious conviction. They took as their inspiration such European masters as Claude Lorrain, John Constable and J. M. W. Turner. Their reverence for America's natural beauty was shared with contemporary American writers such as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Several painters, such as Albert Bierstadt, were members of the Düsseldorf school of painting.

While the elements of the paintings were rendered realistically, many of the scenes were composed as a synthesis of multiple scenes or natural images observed by the artists. In gathering the visual data for their paintings, the artists would travel to extraordinary and extreme environments, which generally had conditions that would not permit extended painting at the site. During these expeditions, the artists recorded sketches and memories, returning to their studios to paint the finished works later.

A View of the Two Lakes and Mountain House, Catskill Mountains, Morning, by Thomas Cole, Brooklyn Museum of Art

Thomas Cole[edit]

The artist Thomas Cole is generally acknowledged as the founder of the Hudson River School.[2] Cole took a steamship up the Hudson in the autumn of 1825, the same year the Erie Canal opened, stopping first at West Point, then at Catskill landing. He hiked west high up into the eastern Catskill Mountains of New York State to paint the first landscapes of the area. The first review of his work appeared in the New York Evening Post on November 22, 1825.[3] At that time, only the English native Cole, born in a landscape where autumnal tints were of browns and yellows, found the brilliant autumn hues of the area to be inspirational. Cole's close friend, Asher Durand, became a prominent figure in the school as well, particularly when the banknote-engraving business evaporated in the Panic of 1837.

Second generation[edit]

Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California (1868), by Albert Bierstadt, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.
Mount Washington, by John Frederick Kensett
The Catskills by Asher Brown Durand, reflects the "sublime landscape" approach employed by the Hudson River school of painting.[4]

The second generation of Hudson River school artists emerged to prominence after Cole's premature death in 1848; its members included Cole's prize pupil Frederic Edwin Church, John Frederick Kensett, and Sanford Robinson Gifford. Works by artists of this second generation are often described as examples of Luminism. In addition to pursuing their art, many of the artists, including Kensett, Gifford and Church, were among the founders of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.[5]

Most of the finest works of the Hudson River school were painted between 1855 and 1875. During that time, artists such as Frederic Edwin Church and Albert Bierstadt were celebrities. They were both influenced by the Düsseldorf school of painting, and Bierstadt had studied in the city for several years. When Church exhibited paintings such as Niagara[6] or Icebergs of the North,[7] thousands of people lined up around the block and paid fifty cents a head to view the solitary works. The epic size of the landscapes in these paintings, unexampled in earlier American painting, reminded Americans of the vast, untamed, but magnificent wilderness areas in their country. Such works were being painted during the period of settlement of the American West, preservation of national parks, and establishment of green city parks.

Public collections[edit]

One of the largest collections of paintings by artists of the Hudson River School is at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. Some of the most notable works in the Atheneum's collection are 13 landscapes by Thomas Cole, and 11 by Hartford native Frederic Edwin Church, both of whom were personal friends of the museum's founder, Daniel Wadsworth.

Other collections[edit]

Noteworthy artists of the Hudson River School[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Howat, John K (1987). American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. pp. 3, 4. 
  2. ^ O'Toole, Judith H. (2005). Different Views in Hudson River School Painting. Columbia University Press. p. 11. 
  3. ^ Boyle, Alexander. "Thomas Cole (1801-1848) The Dawn of the Hudson River School". Hamilton Auction Galleries. Retrieved 19 December 2012. 
  4. ^ "Walters Art Museum: The Catskills". The Walters Art Museum. Retrieved 19 December 2012. 
  5. ^ Avery, Kevin J. "Metropolitan Museum of Art: Frederick Edwin Church". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 19 December 2012. 
  6. ^ "Corcoran Highlights: Niagara". Corcoran Museum of Art. Retrieved 19 December 2012. 
  7. ^ Potter, Russell A. "Review of 'The Voyage of the Icebergs: Frederic Edwin Church's Arctic Masterpiece'". Rhode Island College. Retrieved 19 December 2012. 
  8. ^ White, Mark Andrew (2002). Progress on the Land: Industry and the American Landscape Tradition. Oklahoma City, OK: Melton Art Reference Library. pp. 6–13. ISBN 0-9640163-1-1. 
  9. ^ Allaback, Sarah. "19th Century Painters: Hudson River School". 2006. Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area. Retrieved 19 December 2012. 
  10. ^ Rickey, Frederick. "Robert W. Weir (1803-1889)". United States Military Academy. Retrieved 19 December 2012. 


External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hudson_River_School — Please support Wikipedia.
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225 news items

Poughkeepsie Journal
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 20:39:04 -0700

Hudson River School artists are celebrated in a new series of postage stamps released this week by the United States Postal Service. The four stamps were released Thursday. Each features a painting by Hudson River School artists Thomas Cole, Frederic E.


Almanac Weekly
Thu, 21 Aug 2014 14:33:45 -0700

The US Post Office will release a new series of Forever Stamps on Thursday, August 21 that commemorates paintings of the Hudson River School. Amy Hufnagel, Olana's new director of education, will be at the Hudson City Post Office from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m ...
Poughkeepsie Journal
Mon, 01 Sep 2014 16:03:45 -0700

The Hudson River School was a 19th century art movement, and the painters focused on romanticized landscape paintings, including many set here in the Hudson River Valley. Cole founded the Hudson River School and owned a home and art studio in ...
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Sat, 30 Aug 2014 19:37:30 -0700

The founder of the Hudson River School vying for attention amid baseball memorabilia and old farm machinery. Plenty of treasures are to be found among the collections of off-the-beaten-path art museums dotting upstate New York. But they're worth the ...
Poughkeepsie Journal
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 19:06:28 -0700

The public is invited to stop by and sit to write a free postcard or special letterhead note and receive a free Hudson River School stamp. Hufnagel will be at a little table with a few chairs in the Hudson City post office's lobby. The Hudson post ...
Poughkeepsie Journal
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 17:56:15 -0700

Noon Aug. 29, Patricia Phagan, curator of prints and drawings at the college art center, will discuss Hudson River School paintings. 845-437-5632. fllac.vassar.edu. Jam the Van school supply fundraiser — Aaron's Rental, Route 44 PlazaDutchess Turnpike ...
Los Angeles Times
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 14:26:29 -0700

The Corcoran Gallery has more than 3,000 works of American art dating from the colonial era to World War II, including Hudson River School painter Albert Bierstedt's seminal 1888 canvas, "The Last of the Buffalo." The Corcoran Gallery has more than 3 ...
The News-Press
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 21:18:45 -0700

Following in the tradition of the Hudson River School of the mid-1800s and other en plein-air movements, this group of mostly self-taught painters mentored each other, and, once they established their methods, painted with impressive velocity ...

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