Autumn - On the Hudson River
by Jasper Francis Cropsey
Oil on canvas, 1860
National Gallery of Art
By the middle of the nineteenth century, Americans found special meaning in the unspoiled freshness, magnitude, and breathtaking beauty of the American landscape. In contrast to the cities of Europe, nature became the symbol of American identity, and landscape painting became America's national art.
The Hudson River valley above New York City inspired many landscape artists and gave rise to the Hudson River School of painting. Jasper Cropsy, one of the most successful members of this group, painted Autumn - On the Hudson River in 1860. It is his largest and most significant work.
Autumn - On the Hudson River captures several American ideals: the raw power and grand scale of the landscape and the strength of human enterprise. On the canvas, the Hudson River, depicted at its widest point, moves through the majestic valley. Along the river’s banks are several villages, signs of man’s peaceful and profitable interaction with nature. Hunters and their dogs occupy the foreground as well as a log cabin, grazing sheep, wading cattle, and children at play, enhancing this pastoral scene. The bright, autumnal colors have no seasonal counterpart. All of these elements serve as a visual declaration of America’s divinely sanctioned purpose.
Autumn - On the Hudson River was given to the National Gallery of Art by the Avalon Foundation in 1963. It was loaned to Congress for the 1985 Inaugural Luncheon with the support of the Trustees of the National Gallery.