Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Truth to Nature: The Art and Ecology of Hudson River School Painting

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  • Beginning with the inception of American art history as a formal discipline in the 1940s, the dominant mode of interpreting nineteenth-century American landscape painting has been to view aspects of the landscape as symbols for grand cultural, religious, national, and moral narratives. While this method of interpretation highlights some key facets of the 19th century national ethos, it overlooks the ways in which landscape painting fundamentally embodies a past environment. This thesis moves beyond the iconographic associations commonly affixed to American landscape art, particularly the art of the Hudson River School, by offering a set of connections that is deeply rooted in forest ecology. Asher Durand’s In the Woods serves as a case study for the ways in which visual surfaces can encode not just iconographic, but ecological significance. This reading of the forest ecology embedded within Hudson River School paintings highlights the artists’ keen perception of forest characteristics and a high degree of ecological complexity depicted in their works.
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  • Funding provided by National Science Foundation EAGER Grant 2005976
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  • Pending Publication
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  • 2022-09-13 to 2023-04-14



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