Dates: 1825-1875

Origin: United States

Key Artists: Thomas Cole, Martin Johnson Heade

A term retrospectively applied to a group of American landscape painters, working c.1825–75, many of whose works were inspired by the landscape of the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson river. The precursor was Thomas Doughty (1793–1856) and the most influential was Thomas Cole, whose follower Asher Durand and pupil Frederick Church shared some of his religious enthusiasm. All believed, to some degree, that God’s presence was revealed by his creation and no more so than in the dramatic grandeur of the virgin American landscape. They also shared, and benefited from, the nationalistic feeling that the individuality of their country was best symbolized by its natural wonders. Their paintings, worked up from sketches made on the spot and completed in their studios, were essentially idealistic and Romantic with a compositional debt to Claude. Although rendered with detailed realism the particular was always subordinate to the general effect of transcendent beauty or sublimity. After Cole’s death in 1848 Durand painted several realistic, plein air, Studies from Nature but continued to idealize the landscape in his finished pictures.

Rodgers, David. “Hudson River School.” The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. 11 Mar. 2010 <;

Thomas Cole

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