Hudson Valley Art movement

The Hudson River Valley Art movement

In the mid-1800’s an art movement emerged here in America which became known as The Hudson River Valley art moment School. These artists recognized the beauty of nature here and began to realistically paint these magnificent pastoral scenes along the Hudson River.

History of the Hudson River Valley Art Movement

Many believe that this movement in art was a direct result of The Romantic Art Movement of the late 1700s in Europe. Since that art focused on “the natural man” in his natural rural environment.

The paintings of The Hudson River School were mostly scenes from the Adirondacks. The Hudson River Valley, and White Mountain. Later they were to include The Far West, New England, and South America. All themes of the artwork were realistic natural settings which might include men working in natural pursuits. Often the paintings were quite large.

The Hudson River Valley Art movement

Thomas Cole was an artist from England. In the early 1800’s he took a boat trip up the Hudson River. It is then that he discovered the natural beauty of the landscapes in this area. He began to paint them. In 1825 the art critic from The New York Evening Post named him the founder of The Hudson River Valley Art Movement, which is known today as The Hudson River Valley School.

In 1855 the second generation of artists carried on the work of this movement. It created many beautiful paintings through 1875. Female, as well as male artists, embraced this movement. The paintings were distinctly and undeniably American.

This group is the very first American Arts Fraternity. It is significant as for the first time American artists were able to distinguish themselves independently from Europe.

A resurgence of interest began after World War I and continued into the 1960’s. It is believed that this was due to the nationalistic spirit that prevailed then.

As time passed and these artists gained recognition many of them built homes and moved into this area. In fact even today this area is famous worldwide for art and has many galleries.

Who are the artists of this movement?

We have many American artists who have become famous for this movement. We will investigate several here.

The Hudson River Valley Art movement

Thomas Cole (1801-1848) is considered the founder of this movement. He came here from England with a distinct determination to draw and paint landscape art. He also taught the next two artists.

The Hudson River Valley Art movement

Frederick Church (1826-1900) a founding member of this movement.

The Hudson River Valley Art movement

Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) who is considered the most successful artist of this movement.

The Hudson River Valley Art movement

Asher Durand (1796-1886) became the leader of this movement and in 1845 was elected to be the first president of The National Academy of Design.

These artists were very well organized as a group. They all knew each other and socialized together. They belonged to the same clubs and artistic societies and thus were a solid foundation for art in America.

There are of course many more famous artists who were members of The Hudson River School.

Is The Hudson River School important? 

The Hudson River Valley Art movement

There are many reasons why The Hudson River School is important.

  • The first is that the paintings are incredibly beautiful!
  • It is considered the first truly American art movement.
  • It featured the work of some of the greatest artists of the 1800’s.
  • Nature was featured in all its splendor as the primary subject of the art.
  • It realistically depicted and recorded the beauty of landscapes.
  • The artists painted what they saw.
  • Many of the works of art were enormous in scale.

Has photography been influenced by the Hudson River School art? 

The answer to this is yes. The sheer beauty of the paintings influenced certain photographers’ work. The first photographer to be noticed was Ansel Adams in 1942. He was followed by Ed Ruscha, Maya Lin and many others.

These photographers are heavily influenced by nature and natural settings. This can be seen in all of their photography and other related artwork. Their work brings nature to our attention, which is a theme that is front and center today.

Places of interest in the Hudson Valley for art lovers 

This entire area is a paradise for art lovers. You could spend an entire season here and not see everything that it has to offer. We will list several sites of interest for you, but keep in mind that there are many more. In fact if you plan to have an extended visit here we suggest that you buy a guide book of this area.

  • Olana State Historic Site. It is located in Nyack and was founded by Fred Church. It houses exhibits, some of which are permanent
  • Opus 40. Harvey Fite, who was a sculptor, created this site from a quarry. He worked on it for thirty seven years.
  • Art Omi. Is located in Ghent and houses eighty installations.
  • Dia: Beacon. Features art from the 1960’s through to today.
  • Storm King Art Center. This is a large outdoor sculpture exhibit.


Our hope is that we bring to your attention the importance of this first purely American Art Movement. Not only is it significant as an art movement, but the very fact that it remains there to this day for us to visit is noteworthy.

We encourage you to visit this historic area. We are certain that you will be proud to experience all it has to offer you.  

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