An important American art movement was the Hudson River School. Thomas Cole is regarded as the founder of this romantic landscape painting movement. Like Caspar David Friedrich there is a hidden spiritual layer in these landscapes in which nature was a mighty expression of God in relation to tiny human beings. This is illustrated in Cole’s the “Oxbow” where the small figure of the painter is almost blended in his surroundings and where seemingless random figures in the hills in the background form the Hebrew word for “the Almighty”.
The second generation consisted of several artists among which Frederic Edwin Church and Albert Bierstadt. Church was in his own lifetime already renowned for his magnificent and impressive landscapes. Both painters were influenced by the German Dusseldorf school of romantic painting and Bierstadt did spend a study period in Germany. Another American artist, Emmanuel Leutze, also visited Dusseldorf and painted his famous “Washington crossing the Delaware” in Germany, using local students as a model.
One of my American favourits is Edwin Lord Weeks. This son of Boston grocers, became an orientalist with an impressive collection of Indian scenery. He was able to travel through India in the heydays of the Britsh Raj. His paintings relate to a forgotten world full of mystery and beauty. Weeks decided to stay in Paris the rest of his life where he had studied at the academy. Another painter who portrayed the far east was Robert Frederick Blum. He was fascinated by the Japanese people and culture.
To conclude with important American painters I cannot ignore Winslow Homer. This great realist painter started as an illustrator and evolved his sketches to real oilpaintings. Apart from his illustrations of the civil war, he specialised in coastal scenes and sealife. Also Thomas Eakins deserves mention. Like Weeks, he studied in Paris and returned to become a Pennsylvania academic painter. He specialised in human figures and portraiture.