Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School

Hudson River School - About the Exhibition

Drawn entirely from the premier collection of The New-York Historical Society, Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School features forty-five outstanding American landscape paintings from the nineteenth-century. Among the artists represented in the exhibition are the heroes of the American landscape movement: Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, and Albert Bierstadt, among others. Also included are lesser-known artists, some of whom helped the American landscape achieve recognition through the new democratic medium of prints and portfolios.

Arranged thematically by place, the exhibition is designed as a grand tour of the American landscape. The full range of the exhibition demonstrates that the movement extends beyond the Hudson River, with work by artists who reflect both realistic and romantic attitudes toward nature in scenes of New England, the American West, and even to South America.

The exhibition culminates with Thomas Cole’s masterpiece, the five large-scale paintings that constitute The Course of Empire (1834–36), a visual feast and meditation about civilization and the potential challenges facing the young country. 

This exhibition has been organized by the New-York Historical Society.

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

In-kind media partner: 

Hudson River School - Highlights

Sunset, Lake George, New York

Jasper Francis Cropsey
Oil on Canvas
The Robert L. Stuart Collection, S-126 


Frederic Edwin Church 
Oil on canvas 
The Robert L. Stuart Collection, S-91 

The Course of Empire: The Arcadian or Pastoral State

Thomas Cole
c. 1834-1836
Oil on canvas
New-York Historical Society, Gift of The New-York Gallery of the Fine Arts, 1858.1 

Niagara Falls

Louisa Davis Minot
Oil on Linen
New-York Historical Society, Gift of Mrs. Waldron Phoenix Belknap, Sr., to the Waldron Phoenix Belknap, Jr., Collection, 1956.4

The Course of Empire: The Consummation of Empire, 1836

Thomas Cole
c. 1835-1836
Oil on canvas
New-York Historical Society, Gift of The New-York Gallery of the Fine Arts, 1858.3

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Hudson River School - Video

Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School
A conversation with Linda S. Ferber, senior art historian and museum director emerita at the New-York Historical Society.

Unframed - Hudson River School

An Artist's Response to Thomas Cole
January 23, 2015

Artist Elena Dorfman has been photographing the Los Angeles River of late. We invited her to participate in our Artists Respond series, creating an image inspired by an exhibition at LACMA.  Elena chose Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School, now on view through June 7, 2015, as her point of departure, and, in particular, Thomas Cole’s painting The Savage State, part of his five-part series, The Course of Empire. The paintings, made between 1833 and 1836, chronicle the rise and fall of an imaginary city, and serve as an allegory for the cyclical progression of civilization from a state of barbarism through advanced social and cultural development, and eventual descent into ruin.

Elena's response to the painting took the form of the photograph, Bell Avenue, 2014, from her series LA, River.