The Hudson River Art Portfolio is your guide to the Hudson River School of Artists. The Hudson painters arrived on the art scene in the early 1800’s, and throughout the 19th century created paintings that brought to life the natural beauty of our everyday surroundings. The artists focused on painting outdoor scenes from upstate New York, but often created works detailing other landscapes throughout New England.
The Hudson River artists are considered by many to be the first school, or collective group, of artists in the United States. Many of the artists in the group were friends and traveled together to find inspiration for their sweeping landscapes. They found inspiration from each other too, sharing studio space and actively soliciting each other’s input and advice.
The Hudson painters weren’t shy about expressing their concerns about the environment. The impact of social and economic change on the natural beauty of the outdoors is refuted with every brush stroke of the Hudson River artists. The paintings reflect the restful quality of getting in touch with nature that Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, William Wordsworth and other writers of the time expressed throughout their poetry and prose.
Hudson River artists weren’t fully appreciated until the end of the 19th century. Until then, they were dismissed by art critics and the public. And true acceptance came during the 1960’s and 1970’s, when concerns for preserving the environment became a pressing issue for Americans. It was also in the 60’s and 70’s that museum curators and collectors became enamored with Hudson River painters, actively buying the paintings whenever they came available.
Catherine Woods of Mobulls in West Plains, Missouri tells the Hudson River Art Portfolio why Hudson painters are so distinctive, Darrin Gleeman talks about two of the most influential Hudson painters and Jessie Glisan of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida explains why an oil painting from a Hudson River artist might be the right investment for you.
What Makes Hudson River School Art Distinctive by Catherine Woods of Mobulls in West Plains, Missouri
The art of the Hudson River School of painters is distinctive for a number of reasons. They provided us with an outlook on natural scenery that before the 19th century had not been collectively captured in the United States. The Hudson River School artists showed us the peaceful tranquility of nature, but also made it look imposing, vital and exciting.
Being realists, the Hudson painters created panoramic scenes resembling true depictions of the untamed landscapes they chose to reveal to us. Yet, there is also a softer, more romantic notion found in the artists’ oil paintings. Look at a Hudson River School painting for too long, and you might find yourself hypnotized by its beauty- it’s a style of painting that entices the art lover with its mystery and power.
The vast color palette used by the Hudson painters displays the many colors that really exist in nature. Dense greens and golds are widely used in the Hudson River School paintings to show the richness of American scenery. Oil paintings were the preferred medium of the artists, and they used oil to give their paintings depth and impact, showing each nook and cranny of every tree, mountain and wooded glen they captured on paper. The landscape paintings often use the sky as an essential focal point, in a way that’s simple and unprepossessing or angry and ever-changing, and either way, it always commands our attention.
The settings for the landscape oil paintings give us some insight into the artists’ political and social leanings as well. The Hudson painters were conservationists, actively or passively insisting that the environment not be changed in a way that affects the beauty of nature. And perhaps most importantly, the Hudson River School art created during the 1800’s show a sense of optimism and excitement for everything promised by America.
Important Hudson River School Artists Made Their Mark on American Art History by Darrin Gleeman of New York, New York
Many of the most important Hudson River School artists were born in Europe and immigrated to America, or were second generation Americans. Hudson River School painters were strongly influenced by English Romantic landscape artists like Joseph Turner and John Constable. Hudson painters, like their English predecessors, fervently admired their country’s natural beauty and its potential, and celebrated both in their works.
Thomas Cole (1801-1848), considered the “father” of the Hudson River School, is perhaps the most influential of the Hudson River School artists. Cole’s early contributions to American landscape paintings included the beautiful autumn leaves of upstate New York, “discovered” by Cole on a trip up the Hudson by boat. Prior to Cole, no painter had shown interest in the Catskill Mountain range. Cole’s fascination with the area was depicted in a series of paintings that represent the inauguration of the Hudson River School of artists into American history. The Voyage of Life (1842) series of landscapes shows a Romantic view of life, expressing concerns about industrialism and the widespread development happening in the early to mid-19th century in America.
Asher B. Durand (1796-1886), Cole’s contemporary and friend, continued the Hudson River School tradition of art, moving further away from European influence. Unable to haul their painting supplies with them, Durand and the new Hudson painters visited areas along the river and sketched landscapes, painting them later in their studios from memory, using their notes and drawings to guide them. It wasn’t until the 1830’s that Durand started painting New England and Hudson River landscapes. His romantic paintings include Kindred Spirits (1849), portraying the artist and close friends poet William Cullen Bryant and Thomas Cole as tiny figures in a dramatic Catskills setting. It bears mentioning that William Cullen Bryant was a naturist throughout his life, championing the creation of Central Park in New York and mentoring Walt Whitman.
Why an Oil Painting by a Hudson River School Artist Might be the Right Investment for You by Jessie Glisan of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
The Hudson River paintings have been highly desirable and highly collectable for many years, a clear indicator that they are a profitable art investment. Hudson painters actively sought to open our eyes to the beauty of nature; it’s a relatable subject for most people and another reason why Hudson River School oil paintings are hot investment commodities in the art world.
On a personal level, oil paintings by Hudson River School artists depict nature in all its wild beauty; if you appreciate Romantic or realistic traditions of art, you’ll find yourself greatly moved by their offerings. Greatly sought after by art collectors, there’s a renewed interest in Hudson painters and American photographers today that parallels America’s constant battle to conserve the environment and concerns about global warming.
Hudson River oil paintings depict a time when nature was still largely unspoiled that’s craved by many today. Whether you look at art as investment for profit or just to enrich your life, paintings by Hudson River artists will fit the bill.
We thank our contributors:
- Catherine Woods, Mobulls, breeders of French and English bulldogs, West Plains, MO
- Darrin Gleeman of New York, New York
- Jessie Glisan of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida