Portraiture was the most popular form of art in early America. The MGMoA’s American art collection begins with two paintings in our portrait gallery. This presumably husband and wife pair is a great example of the itinerant painter who painted several figures, just adding the features of the face from real life as he moved from town to town.
American Art 2
This collection continues with several Hudson River landscapes by Inness, Cropsey, and Bricher. The Hudson River painters were so named because the artists preferred to depict the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding areas such as the Catskill, Adirondack, and White Mountains. The Hudson River School movement began with Thomas Cole, but it quickly caught on with other artists who were fascinated with the sweeping vistas.
Jasper Cropsey’s Autumn on the Hudson reveals a group of people either taking their boats on a trip down the river or coming back from a trip. Either way, the focus is the panoramic view across the Hudson River. The people are simply a minor element, while nature is the true subject. Cropsey is known for realistic, detailed scenes of nature.
In Edward Moran’s Coast of England, a man and a boy are sitting on a rock watching a fleet of sailing ships just outside of the harbor. The sun glints off the water, creating a spotlight next to the rocks.
Evening on the Farm by George Inness is an atmospheric portrayal of a quiet day on a farm. A woman, carrying sheaves of wheat, walks with a child. On the other side of the simple wooden fence, cows, haybales, and a barn are visible. All of this is portrayed with a soft, loose brushstroke, evoking the quiet, haziness of a warm summer evening.
Alfred Thomas Bricher’s Summer Afternoon shows several families enjoying the Sandy Hook beach. While this is not the typical Hudson River School painting, nature remains the focus of the painting with most of the people on the left side of the painting. The people are fully dressed in Victorian clothing, much different from the clothing (or lack there of) that people wear to the beach today.