Paintings of the Hudson River School Deluxe Address Book
Breaking with the European tradition of serene and harmonious landscape painting, a group of American artists led by British-born Thomas Cole presented the American wilderness as a place of rough majesty, where tiny human figures are dwarfed by mountains, forests, and waterfalls.
The northern reaches of the Hudson River had long been a favorite destination for vacationers. Indeed, a number of painters had rendered the Hudson Valley before Cole’s famous first visit in 1825, and Washington Irving published his famous “Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” set in the valley, in 1820. Three decades later, Irving recalled the neighboring Catskill Mountains as “part wild, woody, and rugged; part softened away into all the graces of cultivation,” words that suggest the emotional breadth of the paintings of the Hudson River School.
The achievement of the loose affiliation of painters, many of whom never met each other, extended far beyond the shores of the Hudson. Cole traveled to Sicily and painted a hoary, smoking Etna; Alfred Bierstadt painted the Rockies; Martin Johnson Heade famously painted hummingbirds in Brazil. Whether the mood is serene or tempestuous, what unites these artists is a precision, an attention to light, and a commitment to evoking strong emotions through landscape.