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Art Art & Architecture Uncategorized US (Missouri)

Ode to the Hudson River School

Photo: M. Yung

Wherein I kinda-sorta compare my silly little iPhone 8 photo to six sumptuous American masterpieces

I took the above photo yesterday afternoon at the Pomme de Terre River about six miles east of Bolivar, Missouri. After I posted it on Instagram and Facebook, a friend commented that it reminded her of paintings from the Hudson River School. I vaguely knew what she meant, but I wasn’t exactly sure.

So I did what we all do when we’re a little fuzzy on a subject: I googled. Two seconds later, I found this entry on Wikipedia,

“The Hudson River School was a mid-19th century American art movement embodied by a group of landscape painters whose aesthetic vision was influenced by Romanticism. The paintings typically depict the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area, including the CatskillAdirondack, and White Mountains.”

Wikipedia

I also read that two of the more prominent Hudson River School artists were Asher Brown Durand (1796-1886) and Thomas Cole (1801-1848).

That Wikipedia entry rang a bell. In my mind’s eye, I could hazily recall Kindred Spirits, the masterpiece by Durand I saw a few years ago in the permanent collection at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. (Read my article about this fabulous collection here: There are no crystal bridges at Crystal Bridges: and other thoughts about the best art museum you’ve probably never heard of).

If you can’t picture Kindred Spirits any better than I could, here it is:

Kindred Spirits | Asher Brown Durand | Public domain | That’s fellow artist Thomas Cole and poet William Cullen Bryant talking on a ledge in the Catskill Mountains.

I can see what my friend meant by her Facebook comment. A few things give my photo that “Hudson River School” look:

  • The colors… All those gorgeous greens and golds.
  • The composition… That tree trunk on the left. Those leaves and branches that gracefully frame the sky.
  • The subject matter… America the beautiful, in all her glory.

The Wikipedia article also noted that…

In general, Hudson River School artists believed that nature in the form of the American landscape was a reflection of God.

Wikipedia

Even though the various artists of the Hudson River School differed in their beliefs or devotion to Christianity, they apparently shared an inclination to record a pastoral, peaceful co-existence between mankind and nature. The paintings accomplish that goal. They are uplifting, calming, and restorative… just like that little bend in the Pomme de Terre.

Just for fun, let’s look at some other Hudson River School paintings by Durand…

A Stream in the Wood | 1865 | Asher Brown Durand | Public Domain
The Catskills | 1859 | Asher Brown Durand | Public Domain

And now, three by Thomas Cole…

View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, After a Thunderstorm a.k.a. The Oxbow | Thomas Cole | 1836 | Public Domain
View on the Catskill – Early Autumn | Thomas Cole | 1836 | Public Domain
Daniel Boone at His Cabin at Great Osage Lake | Thomas Cole | 1826 | Public Domain

Who says social media isn’t educational?

Yesterday, I was just taking a pretty picture down by the river east of Bolivar. However, thanks to my friend’s comment, I learned a little about 19th-century American art. Hopefully, with this blog post (by the way, blogs are another form of social media) you learned a little, too.


Thanks for reading! Ever take a picture that you found later resembled a famous photo or painting? Click like, leave a comment, and let me know. Become a follower for more posts like this one or click on my menu of art-related posts at the top of the screen.

By marilynyung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

8 replies on “Ode to the Hudson River School”

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