American Painting of the Nineteenth Century: Realism, Idealism, and the American Experience

By Barbara Novak | Go to book overview

4.
Asher B. Durand

HUDSON RIVER SCHOOL SOLUTIONS

In the hands of Thomas Cole's successors, the development of an official Hudson River style seems to have been the natural result of the general public pressure for fulfillment of the hybrid aesthetic of the real-ideal. Some critics, such as Jarves, would have preferred the idealism of Cole:

... in all his work we find the artist actuated rather by a lofty conception of the value of art as a teacher than by an ambition to excel in mere imitation. With him American landscape art began its career with high motives. Progress in this direction requires no ordinary degree of thought and imagination. It is, perhaps, on this account that he is not popularly estimated at his right value, and has left no followers to carry forward the beautiful significance and lofty suggestion with which he aimed to endow landscape art. 1

Others, like Tuckerman, were more willing to accept the compromise style of the Hudson River men but searched out within its limitations peculiar American sensitivities to light and climate. Of Asher B. Durand ( 1796-1886), Tuckerman wrote:

Among many other pictures which remain sweetly impressed upon our recollection, there is one representing a summer tempest. Whoever has watched the advent and discharge of a thunder cloud, in summer, among the White Mountains or the Hudson Highlands, will appreciate the perfect truth to nature, in the impending shadow of the portentous mass of vapor, as it falls on tree, rock, sward, and stream; and the contrasted brilliancy of the sunshine playing on the high ridge above; the strata of the latter, as well as the foliage and foreground of the whole landscape, are thoroughly and minutely American in their character. This we have long

-80-

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