The White Mountains | Hudson River School

New England: The White Mountains

The White Mountains are a mountain range covering about a quarter of the state of New Hampshire and a small portion of western Maine in the United States. Part of the Appalachian Mountains, they are considered the most rugged mountains in New England. Early in the nineteenth century, American artists, exploring the wonders of nature in the eastern United States, began to travel to the White Mountains in the northern part of New Hampshire. These “pioneer painters,” founders of one of the first artist colonies in the United States, viewed their paintings as representative of the unique American landscape. These artists ventured into largely untamed territory, and their works express both the wildness of the region, as well as an intense spiritualism.

Thomas Cole was one of the first recorded artists to paint in the White Mountains, having explored Crawford Notch in 1828. Albert Bierstadt also painted the area before heading west to Colorado and California. Bierstadt recorded the scenery in sketches as well as photographs, a new and still unorthodox technique.

In the 1850s, a group of Boston painters, led by Benjamin Champney, began meeting regularly with artists from New York headed by John Frederick Kensett. He, along with author Nathaniel Hawthorne, championed the White Mountains. This group of painters was later called the White Mountain School, and Champney’s autobiography Sixty Years’ Memories of Art and Artists, published in 1900, is one of the most valuable chronicles of this period of American landscape painting.

Champney, Bierstadt, and Kensett were joined in the White Mountains by many prominent painters, including Alfred Thompson Bricher, Sanford Robinson Gifford, John William Casilear, Frederic Edwin Church, Samuel Colman, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Asher B. Durand, William Hart, George Inness, James Suydam, and William Trost Richards.


John Frederick Kensett (1816–1872) An October Day in the White Mountains, 1854
Oil on canvas, 31⅜ x 48 9/16 inches
Collection The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH, John L. Severance Fund and various donors by exchange, 1967.5

 


Thomas Hiram Hotchkiss (1833–1869) Mount Washington, 1857
Oil on canvas, 20⅛ x 30 inches
Collection New-York Historical Society, New York, NY, The Robert L. Stuart Collection, on permanent loan from the New York Public Library, S-5