Self-Discovery and Wilderness

Brave pioneers and commercial explorations rapidly expanded America’s frontier borders in the early 19th century. Artists started to associate the unspoiled wilderness with the new nation’s unlimited promise to the arriving settlers. One such group was the Hudson River school, American artists who painted landscapes between 1825 and 1875. They typically depicted the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area, as well as the Catskill Mountains, Adirondack Mountains and White Mountains of New Hampshire. Landscape artists also depicted scenes from the rural Southeastern United States.

The ambition and optimism of our young nation led people to want to see paintings that depicted moments from everyday life. These “genre” scenes give views of specific daily activities and also show experiences that all human beings have, no matter in what time or place.

Not only common people, but also common objects, were popular in 19th-century art. A still life is a picture that shows things arranged together in a pleasing, natural way.  These types of paintings became very popular in Holland in the 16th and 17th centuries.  In America, still life painting first appeared in the early 19th century. Some artists specialized in a kind of still life painting known as trompe l’oeil (French for “fool the eye”). They show everyday items like stamps, money and photographs with such accurate light, shadow, reflection and texture that they look like real objects mounted on the canvas.

  • Free Sample, Take One
    ca. 1890
    oil on canvas
    S.S. David (De Scott Evans)
    born Wayne County, Ind. 1847
    died Atlantic Ocean 1898
    Museum purchase made possible by Daniel P. Amos in Honor of Kathelen V. Amos, Board President 2004-2006 2006.10

    The artist invites the viewer to take a peanut, but the broken glass could be dangerous to any who try.
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  • A Home in the Woods
    oil on canvas
    Sanford Robinson Gifford
    born Greenfield, N.Y. 1823
    died New York, N.Y. 1880
    Museum Purchase made possible by the Art Acquisition and Restoration Fund, the Endowment Fund in Honor of D.A. Turner, the Crowley Foundation Acquisition Fund, the Daniel P. and Shannon L. Amos Foundation, Inc., Mr. and Mrs. Donald M. Leebern, Dr. and Mrs. Philip L. Brewer, Mr. and Mrs. Donald F. Broda, Jr., Mrs. Frank D. Foley, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Ben H. Hardaway III, Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Hohlstein, Mr. and Mrs. W. Michael Ogie, Mr. and Mrs. Richard M. Olnick, Dr. and Mrs. D. Ronald Watson, the Estate of Lamar Baker and the Museum’s general acquisitions funds and partial gift of Mr. Richard Manoogian 99.6

    The golden glow illuminating this scene of Manifest Destiny is Sanford Robinson Gifford’s hallmark.
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  • Contentment
    oil on canvas
    Thomas Hovenden
    born Dunmanway, Ireland 1840
    died Plymouth Meeting, Pa. 1895
    Gift of Dr. Philip L. Brewer in honor of Dr. Delmar Edwards 93.23

    An older African-American couple enjoys each other’s company after a workday and dinner in their own house, which shows that they had achieved a level of personal success.
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