Sanctified Landscape

Sanctified Landscape: Writers, Artists, and the Hudson River Valley, 1820-1909

David Schuyler
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Sanctified Landscape
    Book Description:

    The Hudson River Valley was the first iconic American landscape. Beginning as early as the 1820s, artists and writers found new ways of thinking about the human relationship with the natural world along the Hudson. Here, amid the most dramatic river and mountain scenery in the eastern United States, Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper created a distinctly American literature, grounded in folklore and history, that contributed to the emergence of a sense of place in the valley. Painters, led by Thomas Cole, founded the Hudson River School, widely recognized as the first truly national style of art. As the century advanced and as landscape and history became increasingly intertwined in the national consciousness, an aesthetic identity took shape in the region through literature, art, memory, and folklore-even gardens and domestic architecture. In Sanctified Landscape, David Schuyler recounts this story of America's idealization of the Hudson Valley during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

    Schuyler's story unfolds during a time of great change in American history. At the very moment when artists and writers were exploring the aesthetic potential of the Hudson Valley, the transportation revolution and the rise of industrial capitalism were transforming the region. The first generation of American tourists traveled from New York City to Cozzens Hotel and the Catskill Mountain House in search of the picturesque. Those who could afford to live some distance from jobs in the city built suburban homes or country estates. Given these momentous changes, it is not surprising that historic preservation emerged in the Hudson Valley: the first building in the United States preserved for its historic significance is Washington's Headquarters in Newburgh. Schuyler also finds the seeds of the modern environmental movement in the transformation of the Hudson Valley landscape.

    Richly illustrated and compellingly written, Sanctified Landscape makes for rewarding reading. Schuyler expertly ties local history to national developments, revealing why the Hudson River Valley was so important to nineteenth-century Americans-and why it is still beloved today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6423-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    This book takes its title from a passage in the landscape painter Thomas Cole’s “Essay on American Scenery.” Writing in 1836, when many Americans were more likely to look to the future than to the past, Cole insisted that the United States had a glorious history, one that was especially evident in the Hudson River valley. The valley, he wrote, was full of “historical and legendary associations” because “the great struggle for freedom has sanctified many a spot.” Although few of his contemporaries were as appreciative of this history as the English-born Cole, over the course of the nineteenth century...

  6. 1 The Tourists’ River: Experiencing the Hudson Valley
    (pp. 8-27)

    In The Pioneers (1823), the first of James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking novels, Natty Bumppo tells his young friend Oliver Edwards that in all his travels he had found only one place more beautiful than the vicinity of Lake Otsego: the Catskill Mountains. These were the mountains Edwards had seen on his journey up the Hudson, which Natty described as “looking as blue as a piece of clear sky, and holding the clouds on their tops, as the smoke curls over the head of an Indian chief at the council fire.” Standing at the edge of the Catskill escarpment, a thousand...

  7. 2 The Artist’s River: Thomas Cole
    (pp. 28-46)

    Thomas Cole is the artist most closely associated with the Hudson River. He was a devoted landscape tourist who traveled extensively throughout the valley and beyond in search of subjects for his pencil. Cole’s arrival in New York City in 1825 is generally considered the beginning of the Hudson River School of landscape painting—the first New York school, as John K. Howat once described it. Cole wasn’t the first to depict the American landscape, as Philadelphia artists Thomas Doughty and Thomas Birch were already accomplished painters, as was Washington Allston, who aspired to historical and allegorical painting as the...

  8. 3 The Writers’ River: Washington Irving and N. P. Willis
    (pp. 47-68)

    Just as Thomas Cole’s paintings celebrated the landscape of the Hudson Valley, so did the writings of a number of authors who, over time, have been closely identified with the river and its environs. Asher B. Durand’s Kindred Spirits, which depicts Cole and the poet William Cullen Bryant on a rocky ledge overlooking a clove in the Catskills, captures the intimate relationship between literary and visual culture in the antebellum years. James T. Callow long ago borrowed the title of Durand’s painting for his thoughtful analysis of the interplay between Knickerbocker writers and artists. Bryant’s poem “Thanatopsis,” which electrified the...

  9. 4 The River in a Garden: A. J. Downing
    (pp. 69-91)

    One of the Native American names for the Hudson identified it as the Great River of the Mountains. From its origins at Lake Tear of the Clouds on Mount Marcy, the highest peak in the Adirondacks, the Hudson passes near the Catskills, through the Highlands, and along the Palisades opposite southern Westchester County and northern New York City. In the eyes of many artists, writers, tourists, and other commentators, the river is defined by some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the eastern United States. But along other parts of its long journey to the sea, the Hudson also...

  10. 5 Change and the Search for Continuity at Midcentury
    (pp. 92-109)

    At midcentury many of the individuals who had helped define the Hudson Valley as a special place were passing from the scene. Thomas Cole died in 1848, and Andrew Jackson Downing four years later, both while still in the prime of their creative lives. Of the older generation, James Fenimore Cooper died in 1851, while Washington Irving was nearing seventy and would not survive the decade. N. P. Willis’s literary productivity was declining as tuberculosis eroded his health. The last of the veterans of the Revolutionary War also neared the end of their natural lives: Uzal Knapp, of Orange County,...

  11. 6 Elegy for the Hudson River School: Jervis McEntee
    (pp. 110-132)

    Jervis McEntee was a second-generation Hudson River School landscape painter whose working career spanned the years from 1850 to 1890. He was one of a large group of artists who worked principally in New York City and gained national acclaim for their portrayal of the Hudson River valley, the Catskills and Adirondacks, the White Mountains, and the coast and interior of Maine. Collectively, these artists helped define the nation’s cultural identity in terms of Nature, which they considered the birthright of the New World. Better remembered as a diarist than as a painter, McEntee wrote eloquently about his ideals of...

  12. 7 The Naturalist’s River: John Burroughs
    (pp. 133-150)

    During the second half of the nineteenth century the Hudson River itself became industrialized—not only through the location of factories along its shores but also in the development of two industries that, while not new, took place on an unprecedented scale and left their marks throughout the valley. Ice harvesting had been practiced for generations, but after the Civil War, as the populations of the river cities and the metropolis to the south grew rapidly, a supply of pure ice became essential for the preservation of food. The river was the most reliable nearby source, with the result that...

  13. 8 A River in Time: Preserving Landscape, Celebrating History
    (pp. 151-172)

    Many people think of rivers and other natural features as timeless. Indeed, the very scale of geologic time is so vast that it is difficult to grasp. In certain ways the Hudson River is timeless: it continues to flow from the Adirondacks to the Atlantic Ocean, as it has for millennia, though its path and its length have changed as a result of glaciers, floods, and other natural phenomena. Just as these forces have altered the river, so has human intervention. Even in the middle of the Hudson Highlands and the heights of the Catskills the human presence is ubiquitous,...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 173-176)

    On September 27, 1909, Governor Charles Evans Hughes spoke eloquently at the dedication of Palisades Interstate Park. “The river should be kept, so far as possible, free from pollution,” he stated. “We must maintain this noble stream as a wholesome river and not permit it to become a mere sewer.” But his remarks denied what had already become apparent to others: the Hudson was no longer America’s river. It had become the polluters’ river. Every city and town along its banks, as well as family homes, factories, and other buildings of all shapes, sizes, and functions, dumped raw sewage and...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 177-198)
  16. Index
    (pp. 199-206)
  17. Color plates
    (pp. None)