Hudson River Museum

Yonkers, New York


Photo: Quesada/Burke



Wind, Water, Fire: Natural Elements in American Art, 1820-1900

Feb 12 - May 17, 1999


Wind, water and fire-with their intimations of Divine presence, creative generation and destruction-have always been key factors in our fascination with nature. We harness nature for our livelihood, yet its sometimes deadly forces also inspire awe and fear. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, American artists and writers often defined dramatic natural scenes that inspired these complex emotions as "sublime." Conversely, in urban settings, the city residents themselves were usually the instigators of nature's most feared and often depicted threat: fire. In Wind, Water, Fire, visitors explore paintings, drawings and prints that focus on nature's elemental power, from sublime waterfalls and storms to man's own practical use of wind, water and fire for transportation, machine power and more. Right above: Hadley's Falls,1823, engraved by John R. Smith and John Hill from a watercolor by William G. Wall, collection of the Hudson River Museum

Beginning with the Museum's own 1820s Hudson River Portfolio, images and texts contrast the rugged scenery of the Palisades and Hadley's Falls with the picturesque cultivation of Luzerne. The interest in sublime subjects peaked with the panoramic vistas of Hudson River School painters, yet, some later artists, such as William Trost Richards, continued to find personal inspiration in smaller studies of stormy skies and crashing waves. Others turned to more pastoral scenes, like Charles H. Miller, who painted windmills in Long Island's rural areas.

The exhibit is drawn from the Museum's permanent collection and from regional lenders.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 8/24/10

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