Knights of the Brush

Hudson River School and the Moral Landscape (2000)
  • Foreword by Frederick Turner

This extraordinary work of cultural criticism analyzes the masterpieces of the Hudson River School, America’s golden age of landscape painting that flourished from 1825 to 1860. Iconic works by Frederic Edwin Church, Thomas Cole, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Asher Brown Durand, and others are examined in relation to the religious, moral and aesthetic sensibility that underlies their work. For these painters there was a moral purpose in being an artist; art was a sacred obligation. Perhaps not since the middle ages had a school of art infused such religious certitude into works of art. William Cullen Bryant wrote: “The paintings of Cole are of that nature that it hardly transcends the proper use of language to call them acts of religion.”
The paintings of the Hudson River School—idealized, transcendent and poetic interpretations of nature—are an extraordinary fusion of Christianity, Greek and Roman culture, and American democracy. They are filled with light, the most obvious manifestation of God’s presence, expressing man’s harmony with nature. These artists saw a second chance for mankind in the new Eden of the American wilderness.
Individual chapters on Seeing, Virtue, Chivalry, Spirituality, Beauty, Nature, Eden, Architecture, Western Civilization, Order and Renewal relate these themes to the cultural crisis confronted by America today and to the cultural renewal championed by the author for the twenty-first century.

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Published: 1999 : New York: Hudson Hills Press : New York City
ISBN: 55595-180-5