Hudson River School | Spirituality in Nature

Spirituality in Nature

Equally important, and intertwined with the formation of the Hudson River School, was the emergence of Transcendentalism, an American philosophical movement which developed during the 1830s and 1840s in New England and had an enormous cultural and societal impact. Many Hudson River School paintings have been seen as visual embodiments of the call to individualism, divine communion, and intensive and personal relationship with Nature urged by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman. The constant and prolonged experiences of Nature as a spiritual practice also had profound effects on the subject matter of the Hudson River School. Many of the artists revisited the same spots repeatedly, recording the myriad transformations caused by weather patterns, different times of day, and the shifting of the seasons. All of these meticulously observed changes were believed to reveal deeper truths about the cycle of life, and the perpetual births and deaths which underlie every mechanism of Nature. An intense and fleeting rainstorm, the glow of a summer’s day, and the hallmark blasted stump or dead tree in a lush landscape are all indicators of the deep spirituality beneath Nature’s surface.


Régis François Gignoux (1814–1882) Niagara Falls
Oil on canvas, 9 7/8 x 20 7/8 inches
Signed lower left: R. Gignoux

Image courtesy of Questroyal Fine Art, LLC