In the early nineteenth century, landscape painting became a means for expressing American identity and documenting the westward expansion graphically.
The Hudson River School of landscape painters was the earliest painting school in American art. It’s style was characterized by meticulous workmanship and beautiful, almost glowing lighting.
Due to the magnitude and expanse of the American countryside, these artists were forced to go on lengthy expeditions lasting months in frequently less than ideal circumstances.
The majority of painters would make preliminary drawings rather than entire canvasses in order to complete the paintings in the comfort and convenience of their studios at a later period.
Famous American Landscape Artists
1. Thomas Cole
Thomas Cole (February 1, 1801 – February 11, 1848) was an English landscape and historical painter. He is widely considered as the creator of the Hudson River School, a flourishing American art movement in the mid-nineteenth century. Cole is renowned for his romantic depictions of the American environment in his art.
Cole was born in Bolton le Moors, Lancashire, in 1801, and moved to the United States in 1818 with his family, settling in Steubenville, Ohio. He relocated to Philadelphia at the age of 22 and then to Catskill, New York, in 1825, where he resided with his wife and children until his death in 1848.
Cole began his career as an engraver. As a painter, he was mostly self-taught, depending on books and seeing the work of other painters. He began his career as a portrait painter in 1822 and eventually moved his concentration to landscape painting.
Cole inspired his friends, particularly Asher B. Durand and Frederic Edwin Church, who were members of the art movement eventually dubbed the Hudson River School.
Church studied under Cole from 1844 to 1846, when he picked up Cole’s approach of sketching from nature and afterwards producing an idealized, completed composition; Cole’s influence is especially noticeable in Church’s early works.
Cole is most recognized for his work as a landscape artist in America. He characterized his complicated connection with the American environment in esthetic, emotional, and spiritual terms in an 1836 piece titled “American Scenery.”
He also drew hundreds of drawings on a variety of subjects. The Detroit Institute of Arts has about 2,500 of these drawings.
2. Albert Bierstadt
Albert Bierstadt (January 7, 1830 – February 18, 1902) was a German-American landscape painter best known for his sumptuous, expansive views of the American West. He painted the countryside on several Westward Expansion excursions.
Although he was not the first to record the places, he was the most prolific painter of them for the remainder of the nineteenth century.
Bierstadt was born in Prussia but moved to America with his family when he was a year old. He returned to Düsseldorf for many years to study painting.
He was a member of the Hudson River School’s second generation, an informal group of like-minded painters who started painting along the Hudson River in New York.
Their style was characterized by highly detailed paintings illuminated by a romantic, almost luminous light, a technique usually referred to as luminism.
Bierstadt is often identified with the Rocky Mountain School as a key interpreter of the western landscape.
Bierstadt’s grandeur themes matched his commercial savvy. His solo exhibitions were financed by advertising, ticket sales, and a “vast machinery of marketing and puffery,” as one critic put it.
Despite his widespread popularity, Bierstadt was criticised by some contemporaries for the romanticism inherent in his subject selection and excessive use of light. According to some commentators, Bierstadt’s depictions of Native Americans “dimmed” the “image of lonely grandeur.”
Bierstadt’s wife had tuberculosis in 1876, and he spent time with her in the gentler atmosphere of Nassau, Bahamas, until her death in 1893. Additionally, he traveled to the West and Canada. Bierstadt’s latter works fell out of favor with reviewers. It was reprimanded for its dramatic tone.
Bierstadt’s studio in Irvington, New York, was destroyed by fire in 1882, along with a large number of his paintings. When he died on February 18, 1902, the enthusiasm for epic landscape painting had passed him by. Following that, Bierstadt was mostly forgotten.
3. Frederic Edwin Church
Frederic Edwin Church (May 4, 1826 – April 7, 1900) was a Connecticut-born American landscape painter. He was a founding member of the Hudson River School of American landscape painters, and is most known for his huge landscapes, which often included mountains, waterfalls, and sunsets.
Church’s paintings are distinguished by their attention to realistic detail, dramatic lighting, and panoramic perspectives. In New York City, he premiered some of his big works in solo shows to a paying and often thrilled public. He was one of the most renowned painters in the United States during his peak.
Church was a member of the Hudson River School’s second generation, a movement in American landscape painting begun by his master Thomas Cole.
Cole and Church were both staunch Protestants, and the latter’s views influenced his work, particularly his early canvases. The Hudson River School’s paintings are defined by their emphasis on classic pastoral locations, particularly the Catskill Mountains, and by its Romantic elements.
They sought to depict the raw reality of an unstable America on the verge of extinction, as well as a respect for natural beauty. His American frontier landscapes exemplify the United States’ “expansionist and hopeful vision in the mid-nineteenth century.”
Church’s subjects diverged from Cole’s: he chose natural and often magnificent vistas to Cole’s proclivity for allegory—though Church’s work has been increasingly re-examined in terms of themes and implications.
4. Thomas Moran
Thomas Moran (February 12, 1837 – August 25, 1926) was a Hudson River School painter and printer based in New York City. His art often included the Rocky Mountains.
Moran and his family migrated to New York, where he found work as an artist. He was the younger brother of the renowned marine artist Edward Moran, with whom he shared a studio.
Thomas Moran, a skilled artist and colorist, worked at Scribner’s Monthly as an illustrator. He was appointed senior illustrator of the magazine in the late 1860s, launching his career as one of the best painters of the American landscape, especially the American West.
Moran, like Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Hill, and William Keith, is often referred to be a part of the Rocky Mountain School of landscape painters due to the overwhelming majority of their Western landscapes.
5. Asher Brown Durand
Asher Brown Durand (August 21, 1796 – September 17, 1886) was a Hudson River School painter from New York.
Durand began his career as an apprentice to an engraver in 1812 and eventually formed a partnership with the company’s owner, Charles Cushing Wright (1796–1854), who requested him to oversee the company’s New York office.
Durand cemented his name as one of the country’s greatest engravers in 1823 when he engraved the Declaration of Independence for John Trumbull. Durand assisted in the foundation of the New York Drawing Association in 1825, which later became the National Academy of Design; he served as president of the institution from 1845 to 1861.
Asher’s engravings on bank notes served as the inspiration for the 1847 series of America’s first postal stamps. He also engraved some of the subsequent 1851 issues, with his brother Cyrus.
Around 1830, at the encouragement of his patron, Luman Reed, his primary interest shifted from engraving to oil painting. He followed his friend Thomas Cole on a sketching journey to Schroon Lake in the Adirondack Mountains in 1837, and shortly afterwards started concentrating on landscape painting.
He spent summers sketching in the Catskills, Adirondacks, and New Hampshire’s White Mountains, producing hundreds of drawings and oil sketches that were eventually combined into completed school works that helped establish the Hudson River School.
6. Alfred Thompson Bricher
Alfred Thompson Bricher (April 10, 1837 – September 30, 1908) was a Hudson River School and White Mountain School painter.
Bricher was born in the New Hampshire town of Portsmouth. He received his education at a Newburyport, Massachusetts, school. In Boston, Massachusetts, he started his career as a businessman. When he wasn’t working, he attended Lowell Institute.
Additionally, he received instruction from Albert Bierstadt, William Morris Hunt, and others. He had an uncommon ability for creating landscape studies from nature and, beginning in 1858, committed himself to the art as a vocation.
By the time he died, the Hudson River School style of painting, which featured landscapes and luminism, had fallen out of favor, and Modern Art had established itself as the dominant creative trend. As his artistic style waned, so did his celebrity.
Bricher’s artwork grew in popularity over time, and by the 1980s, he was being hailed as one of the nineteenth century’s best marine painters. He studied the effects of light and how it reflected, refracted, and absorbed in landscapes and seascapes as a self-taught luminist.
7. Julie Hart Beers
Julie Hart Beers Kempson (1835 – August 13, 1913) was an American landscape painter connected with the Hudson River School. She was one of the few financially successful female landscape artists of her day.
Julie Hart was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the daughter of James Hart and Marion (Robertson) Hart, who emigrated to the United States from Scotland in 1831.
Her elder brothers, William Hart and James McDougal Hart, were both prominent Hudson River School landscape painters, as were her nieces, Letitia Bonnet Hart and Mary Theresa Hart.
She married journalist George Washington Beers in 1853. She and her two children relocated to New York City after her husband’s death in 1856. As was the case with the majority of women painters at the time, she had no official art instruction but is believed to have been schooled by her brothers.
She relocated to Metuchen, New Jersey, with her second husband, Peter Kempson, in her forties and established her own studio. She continues to sign her artwork with the surname Beers.
Beers began showing her works in 1867. Despite the fact that she had her own studio in New Jersey, she continued to utilize William’s showroom on 10th Street in Manhattan as a showcase.
She was one of the few women to achieve professional status as a landscape painter in nineteenth-century America, owing in part to women’s exclusion from formal art school and exhibition chances.
8. Charles Baker
Charles Baker (born 1839 in New York City; died 1888) was a nineteenth-century American landscape painter. He was also a saddler, gunsmith, importer, and maker of silver plate.
Between 1839 and 1873, Baker showed in the National Academy, as well as at the American Art-Union in 1847. He was one of the Art League of New York’s founders.
Charles Baker was a pioneer of the Hudson River School movement in New York. He painted romantic landscapes of an early American wilderness, with a particular fondness for the magnificent panoramas of New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
He was profoundly impressed by Thomas Cole’s dramatic work and painted in a romantic manner that was definitely influenced by Cole’s magnificent aesthetic. According to art historians, he even produced reproductions of numerous of Cole’s works.
9. John William Casilear
John William Casilear (June 25, 1811 – August 17, 1893) was a Hudson River School landscape painter.
Casilear was born in the city of New York. In the 1820s, he had his initial professional instruction under famed New York engraver Peter Maverick, followed by Asher Durand, who was also an engraver at the time. Casilear and Durand became friends and both worked in New York in the 1830s as engravers.
Durand developed an interest in landscape painting in the mid-1830s as a result of his association with Thomas Cole. Durand, in turn, brought painting to Casilear’s notice.
By 1840, Casilear’s passion in art had grown to the point that he joined Durand, John Frederick Kensett, and artist Thomas Prichard Rossiter on a European journey during which they drew scenery, visited art institutions, and cultivated their love in painting.
Casilear steadily developed his flair for landscape painting, working in the Hudson River School style. By the mid-1850s, he had abandoned his engraving business totally in favor of full-time painting.
He was elected a full member of the National Academy of Design in 1851, after serving as an associate member since 1833, and showed his work there for more than fifty years.
Casilear died in 1893 in Saratoga Springs, New York. His work is now included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and Ringwood Manor in Ringwood, New Jersey. Additionally, the Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
10. Georgia O’Keeffe
Georgia O’Keefe is a well-known artist who was a pioneer of the modernist movement in America. She was born and raised on a farm in Wisconsin in 1887.
After graduating from high school in 1905, she travelled to Chicago and New York to study traditional styles of painting.
She widened her horizons by including abstract pieces. Albert Stieglitz, an art dealer and photographer, spotted and exhibited her abstract works. Additionally, they married.
O’Keeffe’s well-known style is characterized by huge, bright flowers and paintings of New York buildings. Beginning in 1929, her painting was significantly influenced by the Southwest United States’ surroundings.
She was involved in an accident in New Mexico and eventually settled there permanently. In the 1950s, she painted what she saw while touring the world.
In her 90s, Georgia O’Keefe’s eyesight deteriorated, but her assistants supported her in making work. Georgia O’Keeffe died in 1968 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the age of 98.
11. Winthrop Chandler
Winthrop Chandler (6 April 1747 – 29 July 1790) was an American portrait painter most known for his portraits of family members and neighbors, as well as a few landscapes. Additionally, he was an ornamental artist.
Chandler’s primary focus was on portraiture. “Unlike many itinerant painters of the day, Chandler did not travel in pursuit of commissions, and the majority of his sitters were family members or neighbors,” of whom he painted about 50 portraits. His earliest portraits are dated 1770.
Chandler is also credited for a series of decorative landscapes. These are often based on English prints and characteristics indigenous to New England, such as the landscape and architecture.
Chandler’s technique is defined by a flat, linear painting approach and a realistic portrayal of his subjects. He is best described as an exceptionally brilliant folk painter.
12. Susie M. Barstow
Susie M. Barstow (May 9, 1836 – June 12, 1923) was a Hudson River School painter well known for her bright landscapes.
Susie M. Barstow was the daughter of Samuel Barstow (1805-1884), a prominent New York City tea trader, and Mary Tyler Blossom (1813-1895), a descendant of one of the Mayflower’s initial passengers.
She graduated from the Rutgers Female Institute in New York in 1853 and continued her artistic study in Europe. She taught for many years at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences.
The mature landscapes of Barstow ooze tranquillity and are drenched in sunshine. She showed in the National Academy of Design beginning in 1858, as well as the Brooklyn Art Association and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Between 1872 and 1879, American art patron Thomas B. Clarke owned Barstow’s A Bit of Catskill Woods.
Because female painters did not have the same exhibition chances as male artists at the time, her work remained largely unknown until art historians started to examine female Hudson River School artists.
Her work was featured in the 2010 survey exhibition “Remember the Ladies: Women of the Hudson River School” at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, New York, as well as the 2019 exhibition “The Color of the Moon: Lunar Painting in American Art” at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, New York, alongside works by Thomas Cole, Albert Bierstadt, and George Inness.
Barstow, an early member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, was an ardent hiker who climbed hundreds of mountains in New York and New England, including all of the Catskills, White Mountains, and Adirondacks’ prominent peaks, as well as in Europe (the Alps and the Black Forest).
She often traveled down the Hudson River and into the highlands on outings that mixed trekking with sketching and painting. Barstow devised a hiking suit for ladies that includes robust boots and reduced skirts matched with pants (a combination advocated by the rational dress movement). Barstow remained unmarried throughout his life.
Susie B. Skelding, her niece, also became an artist and illustrator, and the two collaborated on sketching adventures.
13. George Loring Brown
George Loring Brown (February 2, 1814 – June 25, 1889) was a landscape painter in the United States of America. He was born in Boston and began his career as an artist after studying wood engraving under Alonzo Hartwell.
He studied painting under Washington Allston but soon moved to Europe, where he spent years mostly in Italy. Brown spent the most of his life overseas, and the subjects of his paintings are typically Italian, with nothing that is uniquely American about them in terms of treatment or feeling.
“Sunset in Genoa” (1875), “Doges’ Palace with Grand Canal,” “Bay of Naples,” and “Niagara Falls in Moonlight” are among the greatest. King Edward VII bought “The Bay of New York” (1869) on his journey to America as Prince of Wales.