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.