Hudson River School | American Landscapes

Subject Matter

Beyond the tremendous visual appeal and popularity of these works was an intellectualism and devotion to exploring the greatest national issues of the day. As the youngest generations of truly American artists, they charged themselves with defining and promoting a purely American art form. Some of the major themes within these paintings are tied to the greatest questions facing a prosperous and ever-evolving nation. The realities of the conflicts arising from westward expansion, and particularly the tension between civilization and wilderness, is returned to repeatedly. Domesticated land, denoted by farmers, agriculture, and domesticated livestock, is often juxtaposed with, or shown encroaching upon, expanses of virgin land, a tremendously abundant resource that would nevertheless slowly be depleted over time. Many artists signaled the cost of national expansion on the Native Americans, depicting the vanishing ways of life of America’s first inhabitants, who suffered from territorial encroachment.

Victor de Grailly (1804–1889)
View from Mount Holyoke, Massachusetts (and the Oxbow, Connecticut River)
Oil on canvas, 17¼ x 23⅝ inches

Image courtesy of Questroyal Fine Art, LLC