Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, Fitz Henry Lane, William Bradford, and John Kensett are all renowned landscape artists. Thomas Cole was a founding father of the Hudson River School. He created beautiful and dramatic landscapes by utilizing light and shadow. Cole grew up in England, and lived near textile mills where there was a lot of pollution, yet he was a romantic man who loved poetry and reading about America. Not long after falling in love with America, Cole and his family moved to Ohio. It was here that he met a fellow traveler who taught him how to paint. From that point on, Cole was inspired by the wilderness and nature and his deep imagination helped him create his paintings. Many of these artworks are now considered masterpieces of American art.
In Cole’s paintings he used atmospheric perspective. This means he made objects in his painting look far way by using paint to mimic haze. He did this by making the foreground the most detailed with strong color and light, and the distance less detailed with softer light. He loved to paint from the mountains looking over the Hudson River Valley. The moods of his paintings were realistic and dramatic for he wanted his viewers to see as much as they could. Using earthy tones, Cole showed the wilderness in its true and vibrant form.
Another technique he used was linear perspective. This allowed him to control the viewer’s gaze. Linear perspective means lines of one or more focal points that lead to an end point. He also used a technique called stafiage. Stafiage is the abundance of intimate details in the paintings. For example, if you look closely at one of Cole’s paintings you can see little houses, men, women, and sometimes even animals within the vast landscape. Cole was also extremely aware of light and shadows. This caused the viewers to feel as though they were part of the landscape and looking down.
Asher B. Durand, the artist who discovered Cole, was also a master of the Hudson River School. Durand was the president of the New York Academy of Design. Unlike Cole, he wanted his viewers to see the details in his landscapes more than the vast expanses of nature. Cole tended to give his viewers full landscape scenes from afar, while Durand gave the viewer detail and a closer vantage point. Durand’s favorite vantage point was painting objects in the wilderness up close. The mood was natural and real-some are almost photorealistic. He also used light to highlight certain areas of his paintings and draw the viewer’s attention to key details.
All of these small details that each artist uses help the viewer connect with the painting on a deeper level. They can feel like they are a part of it and become engrossed with the work of art.
Which style do you prefer-Cole’s sweeping landscapes, or Durand’s intimate views of nature? Why? Which artist is more succesful at capturing the wilderness?