American Landscape ArtistsThe American Landscapers
New Britain, Hudson River School Paintings From the Met
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has such high hopes for its exhibition of works that it is difficult to be disillusioned by the small exhibition of Hudson River painting at the New Britain Museum of American Art. Yet despite its humble dimensions - only seven Metropolitan works - the overall qualities of the works are extraordinary.
It has the works on display in its collections' perpetual collections. That makes the loaned images somewhat hard to identify, but has the advantage that they can be seen in connection with the Hudson River School's own extensive inventory. They tell an exciting tale about the development of American landscape architecture in the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries.
Hudson River School was born out of a feeling of disappointment at the unstoppable expansion of congested, filthy northeastern developed towns. The Hudson was explored by artists in their quest for untouched wildlife, and the remains of a rapidly vanishing nature were documented. They tried to commemorate the size and splendour of the American landscape in their paintings.
One Englishman, Thomas Cole (1801-1848), led the move, but their nuclearists were American. Here you can see "The Parthenon" (1871), a six-foot large picture made after visiting the church in Greece. Cole's influences can also be seen in "West Rock, New Haven" (1849), an early Church work in the New Britain Museum of American Art series.
In contrast to "The Parthenon", he shows the development of the ecclesiastical styles from the demanding realisticism of his early years, when his pictures were full of meticulously rendering plants and terrains, to the more self-confident, even expressionist brushstroke and sophisticated handling of lighting that characterizes his later work. High Point " is more characteristic of the Hudson River School of painting:
There is a mountainous landscape near Kingston, a historical city on the Hudson River. Delaware Water Gap" (1861) by George Inness (1825-1894), also from the Met, is a typical work of the Hudson River School. The representation of the tragic skies as a retreat of storms over the Delaware River, seen from the Pennsylvania side, is a feast of the mystic strength and strength of Mother Earth.
and painted the landscape around him. Here, three of his works show two stages of his carreer, beginning with "Hudson River Scene" (1857), a landscape that looks the Hudson River to the south. Dealing with the lighting in this picture is particularly delicate and masterful.
Both of the other two pictures in Kensett's show, "Eaton's Neck, Long Island" (1872) and "Sunset on the Sea" (1872), are calming, plain sea landscapes. They were both made in the last year of the artist's lifetime, during which time he made a series of magnificent works. Although not finished, "Eaton's Neck, Long Island" is one of his most beautiful pictures.
"The" is a curious picture, or at least for Kensett odd, as it represents nothing but heaven and country. Although Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was not an artisan of the Hudson River School, "Harvest Scene" (c. 1873), on loan from the Met, shows how he lived on a farmyard and is at the same time as other paintings in the exhibition, hence his work.
Its ardent silence also reflects the mysticism of many of Hudson River School's works. Though it is a disappointment that the Met did not bring some of their truly great Hudson River School masterworks to New Britain, especially Church's "The Heart of the Andes " (1859), a huge, iridescent work, this is a nice, thought-provoking and finally rewarding little show with much to commend.