Hudson River Runs Through Texas

Asher Brown Durand [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most treasured paintings in American art, Kindred Spirits (1849) by Asher B. Durand, will be on view at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art this spring. The painting, on loan from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, Ark.), will hang concurrently with the museum’s special exhibition, The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision, from February 26–June 19, 2011. Admission is free to the museum and the special exhibition.

Beginning in the 1820s, the American landscape became a significant theme for artists who traveled up the Hudson River from New York City to sketch the rugged mountains and tranquil valleys along its banks. With the noted landscape painter Thomas Cole as their inspirational leader, these artists gave impetus to the first self-consciously “American” vision for landscape painting, a movement that would become known as the Hudson River School.

In Kindred Spirits, Durand, a Hudson River School artist, depicts Cole with his close friend and colleague William Cullen Bryant, the esteemed poet and editor. The painting was commissioned by art patron Jonathan Sturges as a tribute to Cole following his death in 1848 at age 47. Invoking John Keats’ “Sonnet VII,” Durand portrays Cole and Bryant together as “kindred spirits” in the landscape. After the painting was complete, Sturges gifted the work to Bryant.

In 1904, Bryant’s daughter Julia gave Kindred Spirits to the New York Public Library in Manhattan, where it hung on public view for more than a century before being deaccessioned and acquired by the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

In addition, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art presents The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision, organized by the New-York Historical Society (New York, New York) beginning February 26. Undergoing a comprehensive renovation, the New-York Historical Society is sending nearly 50, 19th-century landscapes on a journey across the nation, and the first stop is Fort Worth. The special exhibition is on view at the Amon Carter through June 19.

Leading figures of the Hudson River School are represented in the exhibition, including Cole, Frederic Edwin Church, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Asher B. Durand, George Inness and John Frederick Kensett, among others. Arranged thematically, the exhibition illuminates the sites that artists depicted as resources for spiritual renewal, as well as potent symbols embodying powerful ideas about nature, culture and history.

Thomas Cole, Course of Empires

The highlight of the exhibition is the section Grand Landscape Narratives, featuring Cole’s monumental five-painting series The Course of Empire (ca. 1834–36). Charting the cyclical history of an imaginary nation, the paintings are breathtaking in their wealth of detail from the initial scene of hunting in the wilderness to the concluding panel portraying the aftermath of an empire ravaged by its own decadence and corruption.

“It’s quite a privilege to have these magnificent Hudson River School paintings in Fort Worth, and museum visitors should definitely take advantage of seeing them,” says Rebecca Lawton, curator of paintings and sculpture at the Amon Carter. “It’s very likely they won’t be on view in Fort Worth again in our lifetimes.”

Nature and the American Vision will also travel to the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass. (July 30–November 6, 2011); the Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, S.C. (November 17, 2011–April 1, 2012); and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Ark. (May–August, 2012). The paintings will then return to their renovated home at the New-York Historical Society.

Additional works by Hudson River School artists, such as Cole, Frederic Edwin Church, Jasper Francis Cropsey and George Inness, are on view in the Amon Carter’s permanent collection throughout the year.

One thought on “Hudson River Runs Through Texas

  1. Great post. This exhibit is definitely fantastic — and for anyone in the Boston area who’s interested in experiencing Hudson River School artwork in the context of music, there is a special concert taking place at tomorrow’s (7/30) opening of the Painting the American Vision exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum.

    My string quartet inspired by “The Course of Empire”, the aforementioned series of five paintings by Thomas Cole, will be performed by members of A Far Cry at 11am and 3:30pm at the Peabody Essex Museum in Morse Auditorium (free with museum admission).

    Check out today’s Boston Globe article profiling the concert. To learn more about Thomas Cole’s paintings and my string quartet, you can check out the companion website to the event at Beyond the Notes.


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