LEARN: Hudson River School
The first truly American style of landscape painting was the Hudson River School, named for the area in which many of its adherents worked. The school was not an academic institution but rather a loose association of painters who worked in a similar style. They were colleagues, friends, and supporters of each other, studying together and often traveling together throughout New York, New England, and even as far as Europe and the Middle East.
The Hudson River School flourished between the mid-1830s and the mid-1870s. Its subject matter is often landscapes from the Hudson River valley, the Catskills, the Adirondacks, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. However, as the country expanded to the West, the Hudson River School artists followed. Some painted Yosemite, Yellowstone, the plains of Nebraska, and other Western scenes. Others headed to South and Central America, painting lush tropical scenes.
Paintings of the Hudson River School are characterized by fidelity to nature; clarity of detail; skies sometimes glowing at sunrise or sunset, sometimes shining a sunny, clear blue; nearly invisible brushstrokes; an overall feeling of tranquility; and a presentation of the American landscape as a new Eden in a benevolent universe, blessed by God and providing an uplifting moral influence.
Thomas Cole is widely acknowledged as the founder of the Hudson River School. The most prominent artists working in this genre include Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt, Asher B. Durand, John Frederick Kensett, Jasper Cropsey, Thomas Worthington Whittredge, Sanford Robinson Gifford, and Alfred Thompson Bricher.