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In the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Subject is a working man pictured in shirtsleeves with an example of his craft
More information is available at http://www.artchive.com/artchive/C/copley/revere.jpg.html
Hicks painted many of these over the
course of his life.
They share features
such as the following:
Biblical allusions--lion lying down with the lamb
William Penn in the background
Developing taste for landscape came in
part from European models (Claude Lauren) as well as from
an evolving sense of nationalism in
literature and art
Sense of history
Note also that James Fenimore Cooper, Catherine Maria Sedgwick, Lydia Maria
Child “Chocorua’s Curse” formed the basis for some paintings.
The movement here goes from wilderness
at left (which is typical) to the highlighted cabin at right.
Children play here, and the hunters are
coming home with game.
Note how the stumps, rows of cabbages, and stones all lead toward the
In the lower right foreground is
a stump, and several felled trees appear here.
Note also the seeming morning light.
This slide presents a variation of the
same scene, except this time a fisherman returns.
Note the signs of order and industry: in the lower right are pieces of cut
wood and clothing hung out to dry.
are welcoming the father home here.
For this scene, Cole drew on an American
icon even in his own time, Daniel Boone, to illustrate the “home in the woods”
This is an even more idealized version
of the "home in the woods" idea. The "home" is large, not
a cabin, although clothing still hangs from the line.
The two figures in darkness look toward the home, although there's no obvious road
Note that the scene--Cora kneeling--is dwarfed by the landscape.
Juttings of rocks—see Thoreau’s description of Ktaadn.
Tiny ring of people is dwarfed by the the angular rocks. Cora’s helplessness
is put into perspective by this vision of the relative insignificance of man
Example of sublime rather than
In the spring of 1825 the 24-year-old
Cole arrived in NYC from Philadelphia and began painting landscapes. Several were exhibited in the shop of George
Dixie. Some were seen by George
Washington Bruen, a merchant and a patron of the American Academy of Fine
Arts. Bruen bought one or more of Cole’s
paintings and provided him with money to visit the Hudson in late August. Returning with a portfolio of sketches, Cole
executed 5 paintings; placed with dealer William Colman, they were seen by
John Trumbull, artist and president of American Academy. All 3 were bought, one by Asher B. Durand,
and that’s how Cole’s career began.
This series of paintings is placed in a
central gallery at the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art. Each painting is
large, at least 4-5’ high and about 7’ long.
More information and
pictures of the other paintings: http://www.nga.gov/cgi-bin/pinfo?Object=52167+0+none
Crawford Notch--the landscape and
conception of sublime here has more meaning: In August, 1826, an avalanche at
Crawford Notch took the lives of the Willey Family, nine in all.
Crawford Notch, in the White Mountains of New
Hampshire, was a well-known scenic site and Cole’s audience would have known
of this tragedy.
Hawthorne’s “The Ambitious Guest”
(1837) is a story about the tragedy
Sense of ominousness with the storm coming on: scale dwarfs humanity
Crawford Notch--the landscape and conception of sublime here has more meaning:
gnarled tree--device used by Cole to underscore age of America's wilderness
The Oxbow: Note the settled land and
sunlight juxtaposed with storm over wild, picturesque nature.
Blasted tree testifies to nature’s
Cole violates traditions against rendering a view from a high
vantage point. bifurcation of seeing.
Tension in the juxtaposition--sense of progress?
tree--device used by Cole to underscore age of America's wilderness
“To Cole, the Painter, Departing for Europe”
THINE eyes shall see the light of distant skies:
Yet, COLE! thy heart shall bear to Europe's strand
A living image of thy native land,
Such as on thy own glorious canvass lies.
Lone lakes--savannas where the bison roves--
Rocks rich with summer garlands--solemn streams--
Skies, where the desert eagle wheels and screams--
Spring bloom and autumn blaze of boundless groves.
Fair scenes shall greet thee where thou goest--fair,
But different--everywhere the trace of men,
Paths, homes, graves, ruins, from the lowest glen
To where life shrinks from the fierce Alpine air.
Gaze on them, till the tears shall dim thy sight,
But keep that earlier, wilder image bright.
For another view of Lake George from a
Hudson River School painter, see John F. Kensett’s Lake George (1869)
The Portland (Maine) Museum has pictures
of the Pilgrim’s Progress panorama at http://www.tfaoi.com/newsm1/n1m487.htm
and information at http://www.absolutearts.com/artsnews/1999/11/04/26128.html
Above sites were the source for the statistics.
Niagara Falls was a favorite subject for
paintings because of the natural force and beauty that it represented.
images of paintings of Niagara Falls are available at the Niagara Falls in Art
According to the Metropolitan Museum’s
web site (http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/view1.asp?dep=2&full=0&item=09%2E95),
“This picture was inspired by Church's second trip to South America in the
spring of 1857. Church sketched prolifically throughout his nine weeks travel
in Ecuador, and many extant watercolors and drawings contain elements found in
this work. The picture was publicly unveiled in New York at Lyrique Hall, 756
Broadway, on April 27, 1859. Subsequently moved to the gallery of the Tenth
Street Studio Building, it was lit by gas jets concealed behind silver reflectors
in a darkened chamber. The work caused a sensation, and twelve to thirteen
thousand people paid twenty-five cents apiece to file by it each month. The
picture was also shown in London, where it was greatly admired as well.”
Church actually made more money from exhibiting his paintings in this way and
from selling engravings and lithographs of them than from selling the paintings
Note how the wilderness has been tamed
here. This painting, commissioned by
the Ohio and Lackawanna Valley Railroad, presents a positive picture of progress:
a fruitful valley, fertile fields, and a train to link the products of farms
with city markets.
This painting continues the theme of
mingling scenes of wild nature with manmade artifacts that tamed it, such as
the bridge and wagon; in facing left rather than right, the wagon might
suggest westward movement as well.
In the Metropolitan Museum, this
painting is displayed on the opposite wall from Frederick Church’s The
Heart of the Andes
; a note says that this represents the rivalry between
the two painters and their two different types of subject matter from the
According to the Metropolitan Museum’s web site (http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/view1.asp?dep=2&full=0&item=07%2E123),
“This painting is the major work that resulted from the artist's first trip to
the West. His intention to create panoramic views of the American frontier was
apparent by December 1858, just before he embarked on the trip. In early 1859
he accompanied a government survey expedition, headed by Frederick W. Lander,
to the Nebraska Territory. By summer, the party had reached the Wind River
Range of the Rocky Mountains in what is now Wyoming. Bierstadt dubbed the
central mountain in the picture Lander's Peak following the colonel's death in
the Civil War. This was one of a number of large works painted after
Bierstadt's return from these travels. It was completed in 1863, exhibited to
great acclaim, and purchased in 1865 for the then-astounding sum of $25,000 by
James McHenry, an American living in London. Bierstadt later bought it back
and gave or sold it to his brother Edward.”
Note that much of Bierstadt’s work
suggests the sublime rather than the picturesque.
The small size of the river in relation
to the cliffs suggests the vastness of this landscape.
This picture has been added not because
of its connections to the Hudson River School, but because of its relevance to
Washington Irving’s story “Rip Van Winkle.”
Irving’s and Cooper’s works were popular subjects for artists and
illustrators because of their depiction of “authentic” American subject matter.
This illustration, too, has nothing to
do with the Hudson River School. It shows
Elizabeth and Judge Temple at the center of the painting, with Natty Bumppo at
Thomas Cole’s Scene from "The Last of the Mohicans,"
Cora Kneeling at the Feet of Tamenund (1827), also based on a Cooper novel, is
available at http://ccva.stanford.edu/HudsonRiverSchool.html
of the old web site of the Central New York Historical Society (original site
no longer available).
This is the online version of a presentation I’ve given in my Early American literature
courses since about 1993.
Brief interpretive comments are mine, except as noted.
Some of the pictures were scanned from books before the web was widely accessible.
This presentation is to be used for nonprofit, educational purposes only.