The Hudson River School and the Lure of the West
The museum's collection charts the nation's growth from a young republic to an emerging world power. Landscapes extolling the nation's geographic wonders from Niagara Falls to the Grand Canyon drove and documented westward expansion. Asher Durand's Dover Plains, Dutchess County, New York (shown left) presents an idyllic landscape where man and nature coexist.
George Catlin's original Indian Gallery, a collection of more than 400 paintings that capture the "manners and customs" of Plains Indian tribes in the 1830s, is one of the museum's treasures. Westward expansion allowed artists such as Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, and Frederic Remington to explore new territory and chronicle the settlement of the frontier, while members of the Taos School brought images of the West well into the twentieth century.
Impressionism and the Gilded Age
The museum has one of the finest and largest collections from the last quarter of the nineteenth century, including impressionist and Gilded Age works. In the 1870s, artists Childe Hassam, John Twachtman, Mary Cassatt, and William Merritt Chase often worked outdoors to record gorgeous aspects of light and color, hallmarks of the impressionist style. In The South Ledges, Appledore (shown left) Hassam uses impressionist technique to render an island off the coast of New Hampshire.
In the decades before World War I—a period dubbed the "Gilded Age" by author Mark Twain—artists such as Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler, and Abbott Thayer captured the brilliance and wealth of turn-of-the-century society, bringing a new level of sophistication to American art.
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Pictured top: Asher Durand, Dover Plain, Dutchess County, New York, 1848, oil, 42 1/2 x 60 1/2 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Thomas M. Evans and museum purchase through the Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program
Pictured middle: George Catlin, Buffalo Bull's Back Fat, Head Chief, Blood Tribe, 1832, oil, 29 x 24 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison Jr.
Pictured bottom: Childe Hassam, The South Ledges, Appledore, 1913, oil, 34 1/4 x 36 1/8 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of John Gellatly