The Adirondacks

James M. Hart (1828-1901)
Date: 1861
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 42 H x 69 W
Inscription: Signed and dated, lower right: James M. Hart / 1861
Credit: Gift by exchange, Governor and Mrs. W. Averell Harriman
Accession Number: 1987.32
Comments: Like many of James Hart's early landscape paintings, this follows a specific design format: water in the foreground at the left, mountains beyond, and at the right, massive trees reaching the top of the picture. The degree of detail he represents in the foreground far exceeds what the eye could really see; the trees, plants, and rocks are all painted in a precise manner, as if the artist were looking through special glasses that allowed him to examine every leaf individually, all at the same time. In these earlier paintings, Hart concentrated on mountainous and wild landscape scenes that were still largely the province of loggers, trappers and miners. Ordinary Americans experienced landscapes such as these only in paintings. Although more recent critics have only lackluster praise for Hart's work, it was very popular and influential in his lifetime. In fact, when you think of a standard decorative landscape composition, it's likely you'll envision something like Hart's mountain vistas or a bucolic scene with cows.