Hudson River School& Knickerbockers

Julia Giordano and Sarah VanLoh

The Knickerbockers and the Hudson River School were two groups of people who demonstrated a growing trend towards nationalism in the United States during the 1800's. The Knickerbockers, a collection of authors, and the Hudson River School, a collection of painters, both used their forms of art to show the beauty of America's nature. Through this, both groups promoted national unity by creating a national sense of pride in the people towards America's unique nature and landscapes.

Stop 1: Catskill, New York

Catskill, NY, situated in the heart of the Hudson River Valley, is the location which caused the founding of the Hudson River Group. In 1825, Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River Group, visited Catskill a painted the beautiful scenery which he saw there. The three paintings Cole painted in Catskill sold almost instantly.

The reason his landscape paintings were so popular among Americans was because they captured the essence and beauty of America. During this era, American's sense of national pride was beginning to grow, and America's unique and beautiful landscape was at the forefront of this pride. Americans were proud of their landscapes because the scenery was so uniquely American; they believed no other country had such magnificent nature. Therefore, in order to show off their growing sense of national pride, Americans began purchasing paintings which exemplified America's beautiful scenery. These increased purchases eventually led to the founding of the Hudson River Group, a collection of landscape painters who captured and manifested America's unique landscapes in their paintings.

Stop 2: Connecticut River, Massachusetts

Our next stop is the Connecticut River in Massachusetts, which is the site of the painting "The Oxbow". "The Oxbow" was painted by Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School. A little less than half of the painting depicts a thunderstorm over the wilderness. In contrast, the other half is blue skies, green grass, clean, blue water. This contrast shows Cole's strong nationalistic view by illustrating that the land which was once wild and untamed, is now flourishing because of industrialization and the settling of the American people. The painting serves as an illustration of the pride Americans had in their ability to preserve nature while advancing innovation. Thus, Cole's painting illustrates the growing trend towards nationalism in the United States by the Hudson River School.

Stop 3: Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, the largest waterfall in America, is one of America's most famous and popular tourist destination. The magnificent falls get millions of visitors per year. People cannot help but marvel at the splendor of the falls, and feel proud that gorgeous site is American. Frederic Church, a prominent member of the Hudson River School, even back in the 1800's, was similarly amazed by the falls and decided to make it the site of a painting. His painting of the falls captured the American pride toward their wonderful natural sites. Therefore, the Hudson River School promoted the growth of a national unity identity because it tied together different regions of the country through a common pride of America's superb nature.

Stop 4: Rocky Mountains

This painting of the Rocky Mountains by Albert Bierstadt illustrates another one of the many sites that the Hudson River Group used to display the beauty of America. Bierstadt's painting illustrates how beautiful the frontier is with lush green grass, water falls, and huge mountains. This painting instills a sense of pride in the Americans because it shows how vast their territory is and how much more beauty they will continue to find as they explore. It creates a sense of nationalism because it depicts the beauty of the United States which makes Americans proud to be Americans. Therefore, the work of Albert Bierstadt instills a sense of American pride in the American's which further increases nationalism.

Stop 5: Tarrytown, New York

One of the most important locations that one would see in Tarrytown, NY is Washington Irving's house, which he called Sunnyside (pictured below). Washington Irving, one of the most significant contributors of the Knickerbockers, spent a lot of his time and money on his house in Tarrytown. Irving reflected his writing style in his home; both were significantly influenced by romanticism.

Irving's house was extremely important to him, and in order to finance his expensive house and grounds, Irving was a main contributor to the Knickerbockers. Sunnyside's atmosphere additionally influenced Irving's romantic style, to write stories such as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Irving's romantic stories steered away from traditional European horror stories and instead were greatly influenced by American nature and landscapes. After the War of 1812, Americans began feeling more proud of their country and began celebrating unique American beliefs, traditions, and especially landscape and nature. This is reflected in Irving's stories which exemplify the beauty and uniqueness of American nature, and helped foster the growth of American nationalism. The stories caused Americans to be proud of their magnificent landscapes, which they believed no other country could match. Therefore, Irving's writings helped create a growing sense of American nationalism.

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Stop 6: New York City, New York

The Knickerbocker group wanted New York City to become the literary center of the country. This group consisted of authors who used nature in their works to promote a sense of nationalism throughout the countries. New York City was their literary center base, making the Knickerbockers very centralized. This centralization allowed them to better spread their works; therefore they were able to promote their nationalistic views country-wide. The centralization of the Knickerbocker's also promoted unity between the country because the literary center attracted authors from all over the country to come to one common place. Therefore, the Knickerbockers promoted a sense of unification between the states while also promoting nationalism.