Hudson River School

Acknowledged as America’s first indigenous art movement, the Hudson River School identifies a group of landscape painters who mainly lived and worked in New York’s Hudson River Valley between the years 1825 and 1875. Although not an actual school, the artists associated with the movement, including Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, Asher Durand, Jasper Cropsey, Sanford Gifford, and others, frequently knew one another, went on sketching trips together, and exhibited their paintings side by side at exhibitions and galleries in New York City and elsewhere.

Emphasis on the American landscape as a source of national pride and identity gave prominence to landscape painting during the nineteenth century. The Hudson River School brought awareness not only to the art of landscape painting but also to America’s wilderness regions. Writing for the Knickerbocker magazine in 1839, art critic Thomas R. Hofland observed that “the American school of landscape is decidedly and peculiarly original; fresh, bold, brilliant, and grand.” What he and others saw in the Hudson River School was something truly American.

Albany, located at the northern end of the navigable Hudson River, became a crossroads for many Hudson River School artists who ventured north to Lake George and the Adirondack wilderness. It was also home to three prominent Hudson River School artists, all members of the Hart family who settled in Albany after emingrating from Scotland: William Hart, his younger brother James, and their sister Julie. By the 1840s, James began exhibiting landscapes that captured the beauty of the Hudson Valley as well as other destinations throughout New York and the Northeast. In 1860, the Cosmopolitan Art Journal declared James Hart second only to Frederic Church. His large landscape, The Adirondacks, painted in 1861, shows James Hart at the pinnacle of his career.


Magnifying Glass
The Adirondacks
James M. Hart
Oil on canvas
Albany Institute of History & Art, gift by exchange, Governor and Mrs. W. Averell Harriman, 1987.32
James M. Hart
Attributed to George G. Rockwood
c. 1857
Salt print
Albany Institute of History & Art, Lloyd Family Papers, HO 81-02