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Columbia Museum of Art Presents Exhibition of Collection of Hudson River School

Submitted by on December 11, 2010 – 9:33 am

Forty-five magnificent paintings from the rich collection of the New-York Historical Society will be on view at the Columbia Museum of Art next fall, beginning November 17, 2011, in a major traveling exhibition Nature and the Grand American Vision: Masterpieces of the Hudson River School Painters. Though individual works are very seldom loaned, these iconic works of 19th-century landscape painting are traveling on a national tour for the first time and are circulating to four museums around the country as part of the Historical Society’s traveling exhibitions program Sharing a National Treasure. The Columbia Museum of Art is the only stop in the Southeast.

Asher Brown Durand (American, 1796-1886), Beacon Hills on the Hudson River, Opposite Newburgh—Painted on the Spot, ca. 1852. Oil on canvas, 46 x 32 in. (116.8 x 81.3 cm) Frame 43 ½ x 57 x 4 ½ in. Gift of Lucy Maria Durand Woodman, 1907.11

“The Museum is delighted to bring this extraordinary exhibition to Columbia, giving visitors from around the Southeast the opportunity to see incredibly beautiful works by highly skilled painters of the 19th century,” Karen Brosius, Columbia Museum of Art executive director, said. “We are so grateful to the New-York Historical Society for sharing this superb collection for the first time and to the Blanchard Family for their leadership gift.” The presentation in Columbia is made possible by the Blanchard Family.

The Hudson River School emerged during the second quarter of the 19th century in New York City. There, a loosely knit group of artists and writers forged the first American landscape vision and literary voice. That American vision-still widely influential today-was grounded in a view of the natural world as a source of spiritual renewal and an expression of national identity. This vision was first expressed through the magnificent scenery of the Hudson River Valley region, including the Catskills, which was accessible to writers, artists and sightseers via traffic on the great river that gave the school its name.

“For apart from the skillfulness and dreaminess of so many of the pictures, the fact that several of them have not been on public display in half a century makes the exhibition even more remarkable.” – The New York Times

The exhibition tells this story in four grand thematic sections. Within these broad groupings, the paintings show how American artists embodied powerful ideas about nature, culture and history.

The American Grand Tour features paintings of the Catskill, Adirondack, and White Mountain regions celebrated for their scenic beauty and historic sites, as well as views of Lake George, Niagara Falls and the New England countryside. These were the destinations that most powerfully attracted both artists and travelers. The American Grand Tour also includes paintings that memorialize the Hudson River itself as the gateway to the touring destinations and primary sketching grounds for American landscape painters.

American Artists A-Field includes works by Hudson River School artists who after 1850 sought inspiration further from home. The paintings of Frederic Edwin Church, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Hill and Martin Johnson Heade show how these globe-trotting painters embraced the role of artist-explorer and thrilled audiences with images of the landscape wonders of such far-flung places as the American frontier, Yosemite Valley and South America.

Dreams of Arcadia: Americans in Italy features wonderful paintings by Thomas Cole, Jasper F. Cropsey, Sanford R. Gifford, and others celebrating Italy as the center of the Old World and the principal destination for Americans on the European Grand Tour. Viewed as the storehouse of Western culture, Italy was a living laboratory of the past, with its cities, galleries, and countryside offering a survey of the artistic heritage from antiquity, as well as a striking contrast to the wilderness vistas of North America portrayed by these same artists.

In the final section of the exhibition, Grand Landscape Narratives, all of these ideas converge in Thomas Cole’s five-painting series The Course of Empire (c. 1834-36), imagining the rise of a great civilization from an unspoiled landscape, and the ultimate decay of that civilization into ruins. These celebrated paintings explore the tension between Americans’ deep veneration of the wilderness and their equally ardent celebration of progress.

Nature and the Grand American Vision allows audiences to enjoy and study superb examples of the Historical Society’s unsurpassed collection of Hudson River School paintings while the galleries of the N-YHS are closed for a transformative $65 million renovation project.

“Our mission for the Sharing a National Treasure program is to ensure that audiences throughout the United States have access to the great artworks and priceless artifacts of the New-York Historical Society, New York City’s first museum and one of the nation’s oldest collecting institutions,” stated Louise Mirrer, President and CEO. “Nowhere is this mission more vital than in the traveling exhibition Nature and the American Vision. This tour keeps in public view some of the most important works of Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt, John Kensett, Jasper Cropsey, Asher B. Durand, George Inness and many others: the first artists to have created a consciously American tradition of painting.”

Nature and the Grand American Vision will travel to The Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX (February 26- June 19, 2011); the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA (July 30 – November 6, 2011); the Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC (November 17, 2011 – April 1, 2012); and the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR (May – August, 2012). The paintings will then return to their renovated home.

N-YHS Senior Art Historian Dr. Linda S. Ferber, curator of the exhibition, said, “The New-York Historical Society houses one of the oldest and most comprehensive collections of landscape paintings by artists of the Hudson River School. We welcome this unique opportunity to share these treasures with a national audience.”

Additional support has been generously provided by these sponsors: BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, BB&T and John and Kay Bachmann. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. A Tru Vue Optium® Conservation Grant from The Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works has supported glazing of the works in the exhibition.

Catalogue to Accompany the Exhibition

The exhibition is accompanied by an award-winning 224-page catalogue by Linda S. Ferber: The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision, published by Skira Rizzoli Publications, Inc. Featuring 150 full-color illustrations of works from the acclaimed collection of the New-York Historical Society, the catalogue places the splendid paintings in the traveling exhibition into a broad historical and cultural context. Dr. Ferber received the 2010 Henry Allen Moe Prize for Catalogues of Distinction in the Arts from the New York State Historical Association for the volume.

About the Hudson River School Collection of the New-York Historical Society

The Historical Society’s rich holdings of American art date back to the second half of the 19th century, when the museum acquired, through generous donation, the extensive painting collections formed by pioneering New York art patron Luman Reed (1787-1836). By 1944, the Society was also home to the extraordinary collection of Hudson River School art amassed by Robert Leighton Stuart (1806-1882), another of New York’s prominent 19th-century art patrons. Works once belonging to these pioneering American collectors form the core of the traveling exhibition.

About the New-York Historical Society

The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions is dedicated to fostering research and presenting exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, the Society has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.

The Society is recognized for engaging the public with deeply researched and far-ranging exhibitions, such as Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America; Slavery in New York; Drawn by New York: Six Centuries of Watercolors and Drawings at the New-York Historical Society; Grant and Lee in War and Peace; Lincoln and New York; and The Grateful Dead: Now Playing at the New-York Historical Society. Supporting these exhibitions and related education programs is one of the world’s greatest collections of historical artifacts, works of American and European art, and material culture documenting the history of the United States and New York.

About the Columbia Museum of Art:

The Columbia Museum of Art is South Carolina’s premier international art museum and houses a world-class collection of European and American art. Founded in 1950, the Museum opened its new building on Main Street in 1998 with 25 galleries. The collection includes masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, porcelain and works by significant furniture and silver makers, as well as American, Asian, and modern and contemporary art. In recent years the Museum’s collection of Asian art and Antiquities has grown through generous gifts to the collection. Of particular interest are Sandro Botticelli’s Nativity, Claude Monet’s The Seine at Giverny, Canaletto’s View of the Molo, and art glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The Museum’s newly commissioned Chihuly chandelier is now on view in the Museum’s David Wallace Robinson, Jr. Atrium. The Museum offers changing exhibitions from renowned museums as well as educational programs for all ages that include art classes, art camps, lectures, films and concerts. It is the recipient of a National Art Education Association award for its contributions to arts education and an Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts for outstanding contributions to the arts in South Carolina. Generous support to the Museum is provided by the City of Columbia, Richland County, the South Carolina Arts Commission and the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties.

General Info: 803.799.2810 For information on group rates and tours, call 803.343.2163. – columbiamuseum.org

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