This post comes to us from Rena Tobey, Curatorial Intern.
The long summer days are here, and your thoughts may have turned to spending some time in nature, sketchbook in hand. Another alternative is to visit the Henry & Sharon Martin Gallery at the Museum. Here, you can immerse in nature as close by as New Haven and as far away as the California.
In the 1800s, the Hudson River School artists traveled to their favorite scenic spots in the Catskill, Adirondack Mountains and beyond, seeking out the same scenery we enjoy today. Over the winter months in their studios, they transformed their sketches into luminous landscapes that had come to represent America and its abundant natural resources.
Thomas Cole, the founding father of the Hudson River School, imbues the land with even more power. He inserted symbols and figures that represented philosophical ideas he hoped would sway his viewers’ beliefs and actions.
Cole came to the United States at 17 from industrialized England. He knew first-hand how modernization and urbanization could devastate open space and pollute cities. When he made his first trip up New York’s Hudson River in 1825, he was awed by the vast beauty of the land that was on the cusp of change. He believed Americans were at a decision-point. What would the future be like in this land?
What the artist actually saw and what he chose to paint present the different choices. In 1807, the steamboat was invented, changing the navigation of rivers. Now, timetables, not the wind and tides, dictated travel. Maybe you’ve taken a daytrip during the weekend to break the routine of your life. Two hundred years ago, people were no different. They seized the opportunity to get out of New York City and into nature—for a picnic, a stroll in the woods—and still get back home the same day.