As the year slowly comes to a close we begin to experience the last hints of autumn as winter settles in. The cool crisp air, the changing leaves, the ripe apples, pumpkins, and seasonal holidays are all upon us. We also begin to see the changes in landscape. Autumn brings a variety of color out of nature that has inspired artists for centureis, especially the artists of the Hudson River School.
Reds, greens, browns, blues, pinks, and oranges are frequently found in their landscapes. The sensation of hiking through a mountain, walking on a trail, having a picnic with friends, and being outside for the last time before the bitterness of winter hits is often captured in these Hudson River masters’ artworks.
One artist, in particular, is associate with capturing the beauty of autumn. Thomas Cole, 1801-1848, was the founder of the Hudson River School. The artists of the Hudson River School wanted to capture nature for what it was and the beauty it possessed. Cole did this job magnificently. For example, The Clove, Catskills captures the essence of autumn. Cole paints a panoramic view of the Catskills mountains and uses the color palate rich in the deep colors of autumn. The viewer can truly sense that fall has arrived. Cole makes it easy for the viewer to “experience” the painting for he has placed us within the mountain itself, looking out over the valley below.
Today, we go to museums and gaze longingly at autumn landscapes and imagine what it would be like to be there in the red and gold beauty of a tranquil forest. We count down the days until Halloween and until we can pick our own apples and give thanks on Thanksgiving Day. But, do we notice the changing landscape around us? Do we all slow down to take in the moment? This is something that Cole was trying to capture: the fleeting beauty of the changing seasons. Cole is able to freeze in time a glorious fall vista and preserve it for centuries of viewers. Today, this painting is even more impressive becuase it has captured a wilderness that no longer exists. Due to the industrialization and development of the country, ideal views of undistubed nature are rare. Cole himself hints at the future by including a Native American (at the bottom center) to represent Man as he contemplates his relationship to nature.
How does nature affect contemporary artists? Do they still find beauty in the changing seasons? Do they find inspiration in the untouched beauty of a forest? Or are they more focused on the destruction of nature? Are there any “Hudson River Style” artists working today? Do you think that Cole’s landscapes have become important historical records? Why or why not?