Hudson River School | The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour and Travel to Italy

The Grand Tour was a traditional trip across Europe undertaken primarily by upper-class European young men. This trip was seen as an educational and cultural rite of passage for an individual wishing to enter society. The practice flourished from the seventeenth century until the large-scale deployment of railroads in the 1840s. Travelers would generally follow one of two standard itineraries. Although primarily associated with the British nobility and wealthy middle class, similar trips were made by wealthy young men from the European Continent, and during the second half of the eighteenth century large numbers of travelers from the United States joined in the Grand Tour. The primary goal of the Grand Tour was to study, at a leisurely pace, classical antiquity and the Renaissance. Florence, Rome, and Naples were major destinations, and, after their discovered in the mid-eighteenth century, so too were Pompeii and Herculaneum. Travelers would also participate in the fashionable societies of expatriates centered in the major destination cities.

Many of the greatest artists in the nineteenth century considered the Grand Tour a crucial element of a well-rounded artistic education, and several Hudson River School artists traveled to Europe, often funded by their patrons. Some of the primary focuses of traveling artists were to visit important artwork, Old World sites, and ruins from the classical past.

William Stanley Haseltine (1835–1900) Coast of Sori, 1893
Oil on canvas, 25 3/16 x 45 5/16 inches
Signed and dated lower right: W. S. Haseltine ’93


George Inness (1825–1894) Etretat, 1892
Oil on canvas, 29 7/8 x 45 inches
Signed and dated lower left: G. Inness 1892;
inscribed on verso label: No. 33 Etretat Normandy, 1892 30 x 45


Robert Swain Gifford (1840–1905)
The Rock of Gibraltar (View from the Spanish Shore)
, 1872
Oil on canvas, 42 3/8 x 72 3/16 inches
Signed, dated 1872, and inscribed N.Y. lower left;
signed, titled, dated 1872, and inscribed N.Y. on verso

Images courtesy of Questroyal Fine Art, LLC