In this second part of my exploration into the Hudson River school of Painters I will concentrate on Durand, who followed Cole and Church, Duncanson and Cropsey. Baigell continues his commentary concentrating mostly on Durand in the first part.
” Durand also described the style of the typical Hudson River School painting. A painting should resemble or represent but not imitate nature. Careful attention to detail was important. the suggestion of atmospheric space permeating a picture was essential to its success”. .
” Durand believed colours should not be allowed to run riot- since the greatness of nature lay primarily in forms and details not in surface lines”..
Baigell points out that by the 1840’s Durand’s style began to alter although his European Trip was not the main influence.
“Durand’s style was little affected by his European trip but it did begin to change in the late 1840’s . Outlines became sharper and the surface of objects continued to portray rural scenes with ample spaces”..
Referring to John Ruskin the great Art critic who was responsible for the popularity of JMW Turner Baigell comments on how Ruskin’s book of Modern Painters might have influenced members of the Hudson River School.
” The first volume of Ruskin’s Modern painters published in England in 1843 and in America in 1847 was especially important because it reinforced certain tendencies in American Art”. .
Commenting on Ruskin Baigell points to the contradictions inherent in considering ideas and their relationship to form and nature.
” Neither Ruskin nor American painters seemed bothered by the paradox of painting great ideas while observing a strict fidelity to natures forms. Perhaps Durand tried to fuse these contradictory notions in his paintings of the 1880’s and certainly Frederick Church triumphantly suggested great ideas even though he painted with extreme precision”. .
Photography in the 19th Century was being developed and began to be a useful aid for a wide variety of painters in the Hudson School.
” Photography certainly contributed to the growing attentions to detail in Painting during the 1840’s and 1850’s. Some artists such as Robert Duncanson worked for a time as a daguerreo typists and were undoubtedly affected by the precise rendering of forms and tones of photography”. .
” Most followed Durand’s manner rather than Cole but we can find in their work several additional factors that broaden our understanding of the Hudson River School”. .
Baigell now goes on to consider the relative merits as artists of Cropsey , Duncanson and Whitredge.
” Of the many artists who might be involved (Hudson River school) perhaps three are most useful to consider – Jasper Cropsey , Robert Duncanson, and Worthington Whitredge”. .
Baignell is particularly interested in Jasper Cropsey. ” Cropsey is particularly interesting because he was among the few to combine successfully the tumultuous elements of Cole’s style with lyrical aspects of Durand’s”. .
” Fidelity to nature underlay Cropsey’s works whether his intimate scenes or in the panorama scaled works he favoured in the 1880’s he made special efforts to emphasise topographical features and to delinate clearly trees and other plants”. .
Robert Duncanson is the next artist for Baigell to consider. Duncanson was a black artist which is unusual to say the least . Most Blacks in this period just after the Civil war were treated as inferior and as we know the War which was to free the slaves and produce a more equal and free society has turned full circle in the United States. A Black President Obama is responsible for the Killings of many Blacks in the Mid west whereas a White President Abraham Lincoln went to War to eradicate slavery and free the Blacks. The question to be asked were they ever free.
” Duncanson a black artist lived in Ohio at the time he painted Blue Hely water Little Miami River 1861). this work had been supported by Cinciatti Patron Nicholas Longworth. the significance of Duncansons career lies as much in the artists race as in the fact that by the 1880’s mid western centres had begun to support artists competent in the latest styles”. .
” Worthington Whitredge , after a false start he succeeded in suggesting the qualities of the American landscape in the old Hunting ground in the Mid 1860’s he added Luminist elements through his friendship with Sanford Gifford a major Luminist Painter”. .
We come now to discuss the most important painter of the Hudson River school after Thomas Cole and Asher B Durand and that was Frederick E Church.
” Frederick Church perhaps the most famous American painter of the 1850’s and 1860’s was one of the very few to develop a personal style and point of view beyond that of Cole and Durand. One of Cole’s two pupils he combined his masters intense and broad outlook with Durand’s celebration of nature”. .
” In Church’s (Andes of Ecuador) his peculiar ability to combine intricate detail with the palpable quality of light is evident as if space actively eats into and surrounds each form with an aureole of air”. .
Baigell points out that this technical mastery of Church was due to new development in cadmium colours which were developed in the later half of the 19th Century.
” Church accomplished this technical fact in part by using newly available cadmium colours by subtly softening of forms so that the painted surface of the canvass appears more like a continuous skin than as a sequence of outlined objects”. .
” Twilight in the wilderness is among his best artworks not only for its incisive glimpse of the American Wilderness but for its implicit Religiosity”. .
Baigell now comes to show that one of Church’s paintings was painted at the height of the Civil war . The issue of Slavery and the extermination and murder today by the American state of Blacks in all the Major cities shows that the issue of Slavery and oppression still has a resonance in the United States.
” It comes as a shock to realise that Twilight in the Wilderness was painted during an increasingly turbulent age the division between Northern and southern interests over slavery”. .
Religion was always an important influence for Church and this is reflected in his paintings. ” Contemporary religious figures undoubtedly contributed to church’s positive outlook but at least two secular thinkers fired his imagination”. .
Alexander Van Humboldt and John Ruskin are the two secular figures that had an important influence on Church.
” The first was the German Scientist Alexander Van Humboldt. Von Humboldt tried to synthesise and coordinate scientific knowledge in this period but more importantly he indicated that Art would flourish brilliantly when painters found the most varied and luxurious forms of nature”. .
” Also Church’s style of painting probably owes something to Ruskin since it was probably in the pages of Modern painters that Church read about Joseph Turner diaphanous veils of colour he adapted for his own purposes”. .
This concludes my exploration of the Hudson River school of American Painting. It is evidently left out of many art Histories who always concentrate on the European masters of Lorrain and Turner. I hope I have shown in this article that the United States had its own array of very Talented Painters. In my future Blog articles I will turn to Thomas Eakins, Mary Cassatt , John Singer sergeant and Winslow Homer.
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