19th Century American Autumnal Paintings

Before color photography, the task of conveying the beauty of the Fall colors in a young America was left to the painters. The fall landscape and paintings of its trees in full glory is often regarded as uniquely American. From the 1820’s until the turn of the century, artists from New England to California produced a wealth of canvasses that brought the majesty of Autumn to the galleries in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Long before the National Parks offered the public the opportunity to experience nature in all its wonder, these talented men braved wild animals and wild rivers, and climbed steep mountains just to capture the most dramatic vistas in an often uncharted wilderness.

I’ve assembled an assortment of works that is representative of the hundreds of oil paintings that were shown during this period. I’m inspired by these painters when I make a photograph. I welcome any additions to this group that you believe should be included. Just send me the artist’s name, and the title of their work, and I’ll feature them in a future post. Click on each image to enjoy the full screen version.

Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) was the pre-eminent American landscape painter of the 19th century. His masterpieces captured the grandeur of this new land better than anyone else. He was part of the Hudson River School, which founded the “luminism” movement, and also the Rocky Mountain School, which glorifies the Western territories.
Bierstadt autumn-woods-1886
Autumn Woods 1886 ….. Albert Bierstadt
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On the Saco River in Maine … Albert Bierstadt

Thomas Moran (1837-1926) ranked right up with Bierstadt when it came to quality and execution. His Yellowstone paintings were instrumental is making it the first National Park.
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Cresheim Glen Wissahickon Autumn 1864 … Thomas Moran

Thomas Moran  1864 Vale
Autumn on the Wissahickon 1864 … Thomas Moran

Louis Remy Mignot (1831-1870) was the only Southern member of the Hudson River School, having been born in Charleston. He worked alongside Frederic Church, another Hudson River master. He was celebrated for his delicate use of color and atmospheric depiction of space. Passing at age 39, America missed out on so much more that he could have contributed.
Louis Remy Mignot - Mountain Lake in Autumn
Mountain Lake in Autumn 1861 … Louis Remy Mignot

Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) a Connecticut born founder of the Hudson River School, was known for his large panoramic landscapes that put an emphasis on light and a romantic respect for natural detail.
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Autumn 1875 … Frederic Edwin Church

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Autumn in North America 1856 … Frederic Edwin Church

Alexander Lawrie, Jr. (1828-1917) was a Philadelphia portrait artist who occasionally painted landscapes. He served valiantly in the Civil War, and studied in Paris and Florence. His painting, Autumn in the Hudson Highlands, below, was shown at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876. It combines the realism of other Hudson River painters with the new style called Impressionism.
Lawrie_Autumn-River-Landscape
Autumn in the Hudson Highlands 1875 … Alexander Lawrie, Jr.

Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900) was born on Staten Island, and became a respected architect in New York City. After living in Europe for eight years, he returned to begin painting large landscape of New England in autumn. Cropsey was best known for his lavish use of color and, as a first-generation member from the Hudson River School, painted autumn landscapes that startled viewers with their boldness and brilliance.
Cropsey-The Greenwood Lake
For Louisville The Greenwood Lake 1875 … Jasper Francis Cropsey

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Autumn on Hudson River 1860 … Jasper Francis Cropsey

James Renwick Brevoort (1832-1918) came from an artistic family in Yonkers, New York. His cousin, James Renwick, Jr., designed New York’s St. Patricks Cathedral. The combination of technical ability and artistry he exhibited at the height of his Hudson River School period have come to be regarded as among the finest examples in that phase of American landscape painting.

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Autumn Meadows 1868 … James Renwick Brevoort

Lawrence Mazzanovich (1871-1959) was born in 1871 on a ship off the coast of California, trained in Chicago and Paris before settling in the village of Tryon, North Carolina in 1923. He specialized in vivid, impressionist landscapes of mountain settings, and was drawn, like many of his contemporaries, to the increasingly cosmopolitan atmosphere Tryon offered. Although these works were completed after the turn of the 20th century, I’m including them because they represent the best of North Carolina Mountain Impressionism, which was so influenced by the painters of the Hudson River School.
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Connecticut Autumn … Lawrence Mazzanovich

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Fall in North Carolina, Tryon … Lawrence Mazzanovich

tryon Mazzanovich autumn
Autumn in Tryon … Lawrence Mazzanovivh

In 2010 at The Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, New York, over 100 autumnal paintings were on display. All of the artists in this post were represented, and it remains as the most comprehensive assemblage of this genre yet compiled.
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The Clove– Catskills circa 1827 Thomas Cole
This is the earliest painting of Autumn in America to be shown.

Thomas Cole was born in England and moved to the United States with his parents. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and borrowed $25 to visit the Catskill Mountains and Hudson River Valley. He was fascinated with the natural landscape and produced many drawings and paintings of the trees, waterfalls, and lakes. Upon his return, he sold three of his paintings for $25 each. Word of his talent spread and soon he became very popular and could hardly keep up with the demand for his work. His style marked the beginning of the Hudson River School.

Schroon Mountain-Adirondacks... 1838

Schroon Mountain-Adirondacks… 1838


Catskill Mountain House 1838
A View of the Catskill Mountain House 1835-38 … Thomas Cole

“There is one season when the American forest surpasses all the world in gorgeousness…”, wrote Hudson River School painter Thomas Cole in 1835, “…that is the autumnal; — then every hill and dale is riant in the luxury of color — every hue is there, from the liveliest green to deepest purple from the most — golden yellow to the intensest crimson.”

I couldn’t have said it better……

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