View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm—The Oxbow. Thomas Cole, 1836.

The first coherent school of American art, the Hudson River painters, helped to shape the mythos of the American landscape. Beginning with the works of Thomas Cole (1801-1848) and Asher B. Durand (1796-1886).

The artists who came to maturity in the years of egalitarian Jacksonian democracy and expansion translated these ideals into an aesthetic that was sweeping and spontaneous. Like the vast nation that lay before them, which they celebrated not chauvinistically but with a sense of awe for its majestic natural resources and a feeling of optimism for the huge potential it held, the Hudson River painters depicted a New World wilderness in which man, minuscule as he was beside the vastness of creation, nevertheless retained that divine spark that completed the circle of harmony.

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