Hudson artists saw America as a paradise

The Hudson River School artists were a romantic bunch. Considered America's first landscape painters, these men - and several women - wanted to present the land in the New World and all it had to offer: its beautiful countryside, sunrises, sunsets, seasons, and sometimes even its dangers.

Amid these grand scenes of nature, you might be able to spot a fisherman, a hunter, or native American in the foreground, dwarfed by the expanse, a symbol of man's relationship to the natural world around him.

The Worcester (Mass.) Art Museum is displaying 75 of these early- to mid-19th-century paintings, works by the likes of Frederic Edwin Church, Thomas Cole, and Worthington Whittredge.

The exhibition's title - "All That is Glorious Around Us" - is taken from a quote by writer James Fenimore Cooper in 1868 that seems to epitomize the movement:

We claim for America the freshness of a most promising youth, and a species of natural radiance that carries the mind with reverence to the source of all that is glorious around us.

These painters wanted to document landscape to reveal both the serenity and dangers that settlers might experience in the new world, says David Brigham. Some also have seen the Hudson school as foreshadowing today's environmental movement.

One thing many people don't realize, says Mr. Brigham, the museum's curator of American art, is that women and African-American painters were also part of this school.

Critics in England, upon seeing some of these works, accused the New World artists of embellishing the autumn colors in their paintings, Brigham says. The American artists responded by collecting some of the colorful foliage and sending it across the Atlantic as proof.

*'All That is Glorious Around Us: Paintings from the Hudson River School' will be at Worcester (Mass.) Art Museum through June 17, then at the National Academy in New York City, July 14 through Sept. 12.

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