Hudson River School | Origins

Origins of Hudson River School

The term “Hudson River School” was coined by a critic during the 1870s as a disparaging title, suggesting the group’s perceived adherence to provincial subject matter and out of touch style. Much like the term “Impressionism,” created in the same decade in France, the nickname “Hudson River School” was originally used negatively, but no longer carries its original dismissive connotations today. The term “Hudson River School” has come to signify a richly diverse movement comprised of multiple generations of artists.

The “Hudson River School” moniker belies the sheer breadth and range of the artistic movement. The nickname designates, in fact, several generations of artists taking part in an incredibly diverse movement spanning half a century. The movement was also a truly global one, claiming New York as both its physical and spiritual center, but encompassing artistic explorations across several continents. Despite the term’s original derogatory usage and perhaps restrictive scope, the name suggests the central mission of a group of likeminded artists, poets, and thinkers who sought to fashion a distinctly native vision based on the exploration of Nature. For these artists, Nature was the central vehicle through which major topics of national dialogue were expressed. These themes included the search for spiritual renewal, national and cultural identity in an era of exploration and rapid expansion, and contemporary philosophical and aesthetic principles.


Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823–1900) Autumn Landscape, 1886
Oil on canvas, 12 3/16 x 20 1/16 inches
Signed and dated lower right: J. F. Cropsey 1886

Image courtesy of Questroyal Fine Art, LLC