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Take a Picture
Are you inspired by the natural world around Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art? In the grand tradition of the Hudson River School artists, we invite you to spend some time on the Crystal Bridges Trails, and capture the incredible landscape views around the museum with your digital camera.
Next, choose one of the three classic categories that best describes your photograph, and submit it to our Flickr Feed by emailing the image to: email@example.com. Type the category and your name in the subject line of the email. You will be able to view entries in this gallery within two days of submitting your image.
The museum reserves the right to remove any photographs that it deems offensive or unsuitable.
The Sublime, The Beautiful, and The Picturesque
Many of the paintings in The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision have similar compositions and share the same natural features, regardless of whether the artist depicted the Hudson River, Catskills, Adirondacks, White Mountains, or points much further afield such as the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California.
While the artists of the Hudson River School made lively outdoor sketches of the places they visited, when they returned to their studios to create large-scale paintings, they often followed the artistic conventions of the sublime, the beautiful, and the picturesque.
These terms, codified in eighteenth-century Britain by theorists Edmund Burke, William Gilpin, and Uvedale Price, had specific meanings for Hudson River School artists, which would have also been understood by the original viewers of their work. The three terms gave artists and their audiences the means to discuss and categorize features of the natural world, imposing a reassuring order on unruly nature.
The writers who helped define the meaning of the sublime, beautiful, and picturesque meant them as practical guides for helping people to look at the world when traveling in nature, or for designing their gardens. Take a look at the writings of Burke, Gilpin, and Price on the iPads in the Museum's Reflection Areas.
William Trost Richards, Along The Shore, 1903
On view in the Late Nineteenth-Century Art Gallery
In 1756, British statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke defined the sublime as producing feelings of terror. Burke associated the term with places that are dark, powerful, dangerous, vast, infinite, or have great height. In addition, he characterized loud sounds and sudden, unpredictable movement as belonging to the sublime.
The ocean, which is vast, powerful, loud, visually impenetrable, and dangerous is often used as a good example of the sublime. William Trost Richards highlights these elements in his painting Along the Shore, part of the permanent collection of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The long horizontal format of the work emphasizes the great expanse of the sea, while the large wave crashing on the shore suggests power, noise, and danger. By composing the painting so that the water is very close to the picture plane, Richards places the viewer directly in the path of the foamy wave, reinforcing a sense of terror.
Thomas Cole, The Good Shepherd, 1848
Currently on view in the exhibition
American Encounters: Thomas Cole and the American Landscape
In many ways, the beautiful is the opposite of the sublime. Burke gives the characteristics of beauty as smallness of size, smoothness, gradual variation, and delicacy. In landscape painting or garden design, the beautiful might feature gently rolling hills of manicured lawn. Artists did not typically create purely “beautiful” landscapes because they would have considered the resulting painting uninteresting and monotonous. However, artists incorporated aspects of the beautiful into their work. The small knoll in the middle-ground of Thomas Cole’s The Good Shepherd rises gradually from the smooth, grassy plain. The painting depicts heaven, so Cole may have felt that the setting demanded using conventions of the beautiful.
Frederic Edwin Church, Home by the Lake, 1852
Currently on View in the Colonial to Early
Nineteenth-Century Art Gallery
In the late eighteenth century theorists such as William Gilpin and Uvedale Price regarded the picturesque as incorporating aspects of the sublime and the beautiful: roughness and smoothness, gradual and sudden variation, symmetry and asymmetry, freshness and decay. Artists of the Hudson River School emphasized this rich combination of forms, texture, and compositional asymmetry. For American artists in mid-nineteenth-century America, the picturesque became the dominant compositional mode for ordering their landscape paintings.
Church's Home by the Lake includes the glassy smooth surface of the lake as well as craggy granite peaks and lush foliage, demonstrating the variety of shapes and texture that define the picturesque. In common with many picturesque paintings, the composition is framed for the viewer by vertical elements, and a path intersects with the picture plane to lead the viewer's eye from the foreground to the middle distance. Although the scene suggests the abundant natural resources and grand character of American nature, a felled tree in the foreground signals the passing of time and death.