19th Century

Media - 1978.126 - SAAM-1978.126_1 - 5245

Asher B. Durand, Dover Plains, Dutchess County, New York, 1848, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Thomas M. Evans and museum purchase through the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program, 1978.126

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 painting Dover Plains, Dutchess County, New York 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 BierstadtThomas 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 HassamJohn TwachtmanMary 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 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 HomerJohn Singer SargentJames 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.

Selected Works

Media - 1928.7.1 - SAAM-1928.7.1_2 - 134200
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
oil on canvas
On view
Media - 1929.6.137 - SAAM-1929.6.137_1 - 83179
Figure in Sunlight (Artist’s Wife)
Dateca. 1890-1900
oil on canvas
On view
Media - 1977.107.1 - SAAM-1977.107.1_2 - 116659
Among the Sierra Nevada, California
oil on canvas
On view
Media - 1929.6.62 - SAAM-1929.6.62_2 - 133481
The South Ledges, Appledore
oil on canvas
On view
Media - 1911.2.1 - SAAM-1911.2.1_3 - 133457
The Caress
oil on canvas
On view
Media - 1909.7.11 - SAAM-1909.7.11_1 - 67217
Shinnecock Hills
Dateca. 1895
oil on canvas
On view
Media - 1910.9.13 - SAAM-1910.9.13_1 - 164
Fired On
oil on canvas
On view
Media - 2006.1.1 - SAAM-2006.1.1_1 - 65506
Gates of the Yosemite
Dateca. 1882
oil on paper mounted on canvas
On view
Media - 1974.36 - SAAM-1974.36_1 - 125635
Dr. Eduardo San Giovanni
charcoal heightened with chalk on paperboard
Not on view
Media - 1929.6.56 - SAAM-1929.6.56_1 - 52026
The Garden in Its Glory
watercolor on paper
Not on view
Media - 1909.9.5 - SAAM-1909.9.5_1 - 130
Fishing Boats at Gloucester
oil on canvas
Not on view

Related Artists

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Asher B. Durand
born Jefferson Village, NJ 1796-died Maplewood, NJ 1886

Asher Durand was born Aug. 21, 1796, in Maplewood (formerly Jefferson Village), N.J. From 1812 to 1820, he was an apprentice, then partner, to an engraver copying English book illustrations.

Media - portrait_image_113604.jpg - 90326
George Catlin
born Wilkes-Barre, PA 1796-died Jersey City, NJ 1872

"If my life be spared, nothing shall stop me from visiting every nation of Indians on the Continent of North America." With these words George Catlin staked his artistic claim.

Media - bierstadt_albert.jpg - 89927
Albert Bierstadt
born Solingen, Germany 1830-died New York City 1902

Born in Germany. Immigrated to the United States as a child. Paintings show an idealistic view of the American wilderness.

Media - J0001991_1b.jpg - 89335
Thomas Moran
born Bolton, England 1837-died Santa Barbara, CA 1926

Landscape painter. Influenced by J.M.W. Turner, Moran is best remembered for his idealized views of the American West.

Frederic Remington
born Canton, NY 1861-died Ridgefield, CT 1909

Painter, sculptor. Born in Canton, New York, Remington found his spiritual home in the American West. In 1881 the young artist set out for the Montana Territory, determined to gain a firsthand knowledge of western life.

Media - J0001736_1b.jpg - 89285
Childe Hassam
born Dorchester, MA 1859-died East Hampton, NY 1935

Painter and illustrator. Hassam was a leading American Impressionist whose work was much influenced by Claude Monet.

Media - J0002240_1b.jpg - 89377
John Henry Twachtman
born Cincinnati, OH 1853-died Gloucester, MA 1902

Painter, founding member of The Ten. He studied with Frank Duveneck, and his early canvases reflected the influence of the Munich Academy.

Media - cassatt_mary.jpg - 89966
Mary Cassatt
born Allegheny City, PA 1844-died Mesnil-Theribus, France 1926

Born to a prominent Pennsylvania family, Mary Cassatt spent her artistic career in Europe.

Media - J0001378_1b.jpg - 87619
William Merritt Chase
born Williamsburg, IN 1849-died New York City 1916

Painter and teacher.

Media - J0001697_1b.jpg - 89277
Winslow Homer
born Boston, MA 1836-died Prout's Neck, ME 1910

Painter and graphic artist. Homer's illustrations of the Civil War for Harper's Weekly are singular and outstanding examples of wartime reporting.

Media - J0002143_1b.jpg - 89364
John Singer Sargent
born Florence, Italy 1856-died London, England 1925

Painter. Sargent traveled in a circle of socially prominent people and is known for his loosely painted portraits done in a style reminiscent of Edgar Degas and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

Media - 1951.14.110 - SAAM-1951.14.110_1 - 1331
James McNeill Whistler
born Lowell, MA 1834-died London, England 1903

James Abbott McNeill Whistler was born in the industrial town of Lowell, Massachusetts. Inducted into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he accumulated so many demerits that he became a sore trial to the then-commandant Major Robert E. Lee.

Media - portrait_image_113682.jpg - 90361
Abbott Handerson Thayer
born Boston, MA 1849-died Dublin, NH 1921

Painter, best known for his idealistic and allegorical paintings of women as angels and madonnas.