In appreciation for a group of paintings that the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
(PAFA) is lending next year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is reciprocating with paintings from the Hudson River School. The Hudson River School is one of the foundational and most influential traditions in the history of American landscape painting. Word of the upcoming display inspired a group of Philadelphia-area collectors to share with the Academy highlights from their own superlative collections of Hudson River School art. This exhibition, entitled Public Treasures/Private Visions: Hudson River School Masterworks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art & Private Collections, will be in the PAFA Historic Landmark Building (118 North Broad Street) June 15, 2009 through September 30, 2009.
Public Treasures/Private Visions is a rare opportunity to see paintings that seldom travel outside of New York City, as well as paintings that ordinarily remain behind closed doors, says Anna Marley, PAFAs Curator of Historical American Art. Artists of this mid-nineteenth century school became masters of light and practitioners of natural sciences like geology and botany. Their work transcended earlier topographic transcriptions of the places they painted to create poetic and romantic visions of America.
Ranging from grand visions of the American West to quiet forest interiors, American painters absorbed the traditions of European landscape artists and then reinvented them to celebrate the distinctiveness of the vast American landscape. For many of the Hudson River School artists, who had spent years studying and painting in Europe, they sought to create new art for a new land, generating new styles, themes and methods for American painting.
Their often-dramatic vistas on large-scale canvasses became the signature vision that many Americans had of places like Yosemite, the Adirondacks, and the American West. These images not only promoted curiosity, but even impacted westward expansion of the railroads and tourism, as citizens sought to see these majestic sites in person.
The exhibition features works by ten noted Hudson River School artists. The Metropolitan loan includes works by Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, and Albert Bierstadt. Cole, often acknowledged as the founder and leader of the first generation of Hudson River School painters, will be represented at PAFA by one of his most iconic paintings, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a ThunderstormThe Oxbow, 1836. Durand, who carried the Hudson River tradition well into the second half of the nineteenth-century after Coles untimely death in 1848, favored quiet, light-filled landscapes, as represented by The Beeches, 1836. Albert Bierstadt introduced the U.S. to the grandeur of the American West, often through his sublime views of Yosemite National Park, as shown in Merced River, Yosemite Valley, 1866.
Complementing these three treasures will be such diverse visions as a Frederic Church South American scene of Cotopaxi, a brilliant autumn scene by Jasper Francis Cropsey, luminous treatments of summer afternoons by William Stanley Haseltine and John Frederick Kensett, an example of Martin Johnson Heades quiet vision of twilight, a golden Sanford R. Gifford painting of Mount Mansfield, and one of Thomas Morans breathtaking views of Yellowstone National Park.
Interspersed throughout Public Treasures/Private Visions will be works from PAFAs own collection of mid-nineteenth century landscape paintings, highlighting artists such as Heade, Moran, and Cropseys journeys abroad.