The show begins with work by the 19th century painters of the Hudson River School, arguably the first American art movement, and continues through more contemporary painting and photographs. The exhibition demonstrates the variety of faces that the River presents and the selected works reflect the vision of the individual artists.
In general, 19th century Hudson River School painters saw the River as an almost holy, pristine, primeval landscape, where settlers (if present at all) lived in harmony with an all powerful “Nature“. Photographers (partially due to the nature of their medium) were more interested in the real than the ideal. To them, the profound effect of the “hand of man“ on the environment is what gave proof of man’s dominion over Nature, and was itself a source of pride for a developing nation. Of course, in more recent times, man’s impact on the environment has engendered a more negative judgment. Irony and severe criticism have become part of the view as a spur to environmental action by those who love the River and want to protect, defend, and restore it. All these motivations find form in the exhibition.
Photo: Joseph Antonio Hekking’s (1830 – 1903) Hudson River Valley