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Indepth Arts News:

"Hudson River Paintings from the Hersen Collection"
2000-01-22 until 2000-04-16
Frye Art Museum
Seattle, WA, USA United States of America

Inspired by artist Thomas Cole, the painters of the Hudson River school were a loosely formed group whose activities centered along the Hudson River valley between 1840 and 1880. Their paintings combined a poet's romantic sense of nature with a geographer's sense of place. Drawn from the collection of Dr. and Mrs. Michel Hersen, this exhibition demonstrates the talents of thirty-two of the artists who celebrated the landscape from the coast of Maine to the edge of the expanding frontier.

The richly painted landscapes reflect a time when the American landscape was relatively unmarred by development. At first glance, the paintings seem simply to represent beauty, repose, and rest. At a deeper level, however, the paintings evoke a philosophical ideal that places humanity in relation to the immensity of nature. The paintings often transcend literal description to make a spiritual statement. While many of their contemporaries viewed nature as a hostile entity to be controlled or as a bonanza to be exploited, the Hudson River artists revered nature as the embodiment of God and the universal spirit.

By 1900, most of the Hudson River artists were forgotten and their paintings considered old fashioned and sentimental. This changed after World War II when many of these artists were rediscovered. Today, we appreciate the paintings as images of a lost pre-industrial paradise. Environmentalists are inspired by the landscapes and the depiction of nature and its inherent beauty. However, the distinctive characteristics of the best of these paintings poetic depiction combined with spiritual intensity allow them to stand on their own as significant contributions to the history and development of American art.

Included in this exhibition are canvases by Hudson River painters such as Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900), Asher B. Durand (1796-1886), and Julie Hart Beers (1835-1913). The Hersens hope the exhibition will serve to generate further public interest and scholarly activity in the yet untapped vault of the Hudson River treasure trove.

An illustrated 64 page color book, with an essay by noted American art historian William Kloss, is being published by the Frye Art Museum in connection with the exhibition.

Copyright Frye Art Museum, 2000.

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