One aspect of working with American art that I am constantly amazed by is the timeless nature of Hudson River School landscape paintings. On a daily basis, I am surrounded by iconic scenes of mountain vistas and coastal scenes that, although painted over a century ago, are still recognizable today. Tomorrow, an important exhibition of 19th-century American landscape paintings will open at the Fenimore Art Museum, where over forty-five works on display will emphasize the significance of the Hudson River Valley in our nation’s history. Open through September 29, 2013, The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision will offer visitors the opportunity to see a rare concentration of some of the finest examples of work created by Hudson River School artists. Fenimore Art Museum President and CEO Dr. Paul S. D’Ambrosio explained how Nature and the American Vision underscores the cultural and historical significance of the American landscape; he stated, “These artists portrayed nature both as a divine force and as a symbol of national pride. Some works touch upon the subject of conservation and preservation, with imagery portraying the emergence of industrialization in 19th-century America, a deliberate foreshadowing to warn of the potential environmental issues that could ultimately obliterate the country’s pristine nature.”
The Fenimore Art Museum made sure to include some of the biggest names in Hudson River School painting in Nature and the American Vision; this blockbuster show features works by Asher B. Durand, Frederic Edwin Church, John Frederick Kensett, George Inness, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Francis Augustus Silva, Sanford Robinson Gifford and Albert Bierstadt! It aims to examine how America’s never-ending desire for constant progress conflicts with its celebration of the iconic landscape that has become representative of our national identity. Four different themes examine the constant tug-of-war between these two notions; visitors will first encounter The American Grand Tour, which presents dramatic depictions of the Catskill, Adirondack, and White Mountain regions, in addition to scenes of Lake George, Niagara Falls, and New England. The power of allure that emanates from the natural beauty of these views drew in many artists and tourists during the nineteenth century, and these national landmarks continue to do so today. American Artists Afield celebrates the adventurous spirit of Hudson River School painters; venturing fearlessly into the unexplored terrain of the American West, artists including Church, Bierstadt, Thomas Hill and Martin Johnson Heade created paintings that provide the excitement of forging into the unknown, but without any threat of danger. The picturesque Italian countryside was a well-known mecca for 19th-century American artists who took part in the Grand Tour, and the skillfully rendered souvenirs of these visits can be seen in Dreams of Arcadia: Americans in Italy.
The grand finale of Nature and the American Vision is nothing short of amazing—Thomas Cole’s The Course of the Empire is an epic series of five paintings that epitomize America’s struggle to find a balance between trying to evolve as a country, while also preserving the unspoiled landscape which defined our nation. The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision is an exhibition that really sings—the overreaching themes and exceptional quality of work come together seamlessly, ensuring that visitors will depart with a deepened appreciation of the American landscape!