Hudson River School

Painting America's Eden

The Art of Realism, Idealized

Founded by Thomas Cole, the Hudson River School was an art movement heavily influenced by the romanticism in the mid-19th century. The artists, a group of landscape painters, were interested in the effects of light, called luminism. Their style was defined by aerial perspective and camouflaging brushstrokes.

Portraying "the spirit of a nation," these artists sought to embody the sentiment of opportunity, painting the grandeur and allure of this new "Eden," glossing over of the effects of urbanization and industry.

Themes of the Paintings

  • discovery
  • exploration
  • settlement

The style

These artists were the first to paint the America, specifically the American landscape, with nature as it's subject rather than the background. These works of art illustrated the power of nature - the sublime - demonstrating the prevailing symbolism of creation, and therefore God. The light, and it's effects on the landscape, were elemental in the organization of the Hudson River School art. Furthermore, these masterpieces characterized and detailed the ideals of human beings and nature in a pastoral setting coexisting in harmony, frequently pairing the coarseness of the wild with an agrarian society. Many of the scenes portrayed were a combination of multiple images recorded by the artists to create a Utopian, yet realistic work of art.

Some of the Key Players

Thomas Cole, The Oxbow, 1836

Hudson River Artist Mini Gallery

Off The Wall: A Pic-Nic Party by Thomas Cole

Questions (Answer in your notebook)

Who was the audience of Thomas Cole’s Oxbow?

Why do you think the Hudson River School was significant as Americans approached the belief of Manifest Destiny?