For the first time at the Wichita Art Museum, 41 landscape paintings of early American art history from the premier collection of the New-York Historical Society will be on view in The Poetry of Nature, featuring masterpieces by such notable artists as Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, and Albert Bierstadt. The exhibition offers a varied survey of important paintings conceived in the style of the Hudson River School and further enriched by each artist’s personal vision.
In the early to mid-19th century, the expansive landscapes of the Hudson River Valley as well as Catskill and Adirondack Mountains inspired a remarkably talented group of American artists, a circle now known as the Hudson River School. Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand were the leaders of the early movement, encouraging a generation of artists who found life-long inspiration in the contemplation and study of nature. Landscape was not greatly valued as a category for painting at the time, and the Hudson River School made landscape painting an acceptable subject for American artists.
Utilizing masterful effects of light, the Hudson River School artists created intricate, often idealized views of nature that conveyed the physical details of each landscape as well as its atmosphere. Artists of the Hudson River School also journeyed beyond New York State to other regions noted for scenic beauty, such as New Hampshire and coastal New England.
These artists—part of the romantic movement in 19th-century America that extended to literary figures including Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper—extolled the majesty of the American wilderness and the idea of man living in harmonious balance with nature.
The impact of their visual imagery had great consequences for the way Americans considered this landscape as part of the country’s cultural heritage, evident in the fact that many of the places revered by the Hudson River School are now national parks and state wilderness preserves.
The exhibition has been organized by the New-York Historical Society. The Wichita presentation has been generously sponsored by The Trust Company of Kansas. Additional support has been provided by the DeVore Foundation.
Image: Albert Bierstadt, "Autumn Woods," 1886. Oil on linen, 54 x 84 inches. The New-York Historical Society, Gift of Mrs. Albert Bierstadt.