A number of the artists featured in the special exhibition Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School can also be found in the galleries of the Milwaukee Art Museum. This is the first a series of blog posts that will highlight Milwaukee’s artworks during the run of the exhibition.
Often called the Founder of the Hudson River School, Thomas Cole (1801–1848) holds an important place in the development of American landscape painting. Cole’s Storm in the Wilderness, from the Layton Art Collection and on view in the exhibition, is a good example of the power of his work.
Let’s start with some background. Since the Renaissance, some subjects were considered less important than others. At the top of this hierarchy were historical paintings, which depicted critical events from ancient mythology, politics, and religion. Below that were portraits and genre scenes that captured important persons and contemporary society. And at the very bottom was landscape. Why was that? Landscapes were seen as an inadequate subject for expressing human emotions and societal values.