Wadsworth Atheneum Reinstalls Hudson River School Masterpieces

The Wadsworth Atheneum announced today the completion of a large-scale reinstallation of its famed Hudson River School collection, considered the finest of its kind held by any museum. The more than 30-piece installation will be housed in the museum’s newly renovated Huntington Gallery—prominently placed just off the museum’s entrance—for the next two years.

Frederic Edwin ChurchCentered mainly on the paintings of Frederic Church and Thomas Cole, the Hudson River School exhibition will also include Cole’s Life, Death and Immortality, painted in 1844 and recently acquired by the museum. Previously unidentified, the painting can be traced back to a letter Cole wrote to Daniel Wadsworth in 1844 imploring him to acquire a series of historical landscapes for the newly-opened Wadsworth Atheneum. Now, over 150 years later, it has made its way into the museum’s permanent collection. This painting is the only known realization of the ideas expressed in the artist’s letter and the only known work in the series—which Cole contemplated late in life but apparently never completed.

The reinstallation tells the story of the formation of the collection by its two major patrons, Daniel Wadsworth (1771-1848), a devoted traveler, amateur artist and architect, and founder of the Wadsworth Atheneum, and Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt (1826-1905), widow of arms manufacturer Samuel Colt.

“Many of the museum’s most prized Hudson River School works were commissioned directly by either Wadsworth or Colt,” said Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser, Krieble Curator of American Painting and Sculpture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. “As a result of their patronage, the Wadsworth Atheneum’s collection is unique in that it reflects the evolving aesthetic of two generations of Hudson River School painters.”

Other highlights of the exhibition include Frederic Church’s Hooker and Company Journeying through the Wilderness in 1636 from Plymouth to Hartford. A pupil of Thomas Cole and a Hartford native, Church’s first major landscape depicts the founding of Connecticut and the infamous Charter Oak Tree.

Albert Bierstad
Albert Bierstadt, In the Mountains, 1867. Oil on canvas. Gift of John Junius Morgan in memory of his mother, Juliet Pierpont Morgan, 1923.253

“Setting these masterworks within our beautifully refurbished gallery enables one to see them in a completely new context,” said Kornhauser. “I’m particularly excited that the collection will be accessible directly from the main lobby, as, for many of our visitors, a visit to the Wadsworth is not complete without viewing these astounding works.”

The Hudson River School is the first national school of landscape art in the United States and it emerged between 1825 and 1875. Artists from the school were active in New York City and frequented the Catskill Mountain region. The bounty of nature was a frequent subject as it expressed the burgeoning nation’s hopes and aspirations.

The reinstallation of its prized Hudson River School collection is part of a broader plan to reinstall many of the masterpieces from the Wadsworth’s extensive permanent collection. The museum recently opened a new exhibition highlighting its European masterworks from the late 19th Century and will begin renovating its Hilles Gallery this fall to prepare for an installation of the museum’s European Old Masters which will include works by Fra Angelico, Gentileschi and Panini.

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is located at 600 Main St. in Hartford, Connecticut. The Museum is open Wednesdays to Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Please visit www.wadsworthatheneum.org for more information

Top Image: Frederic Edwin Church, Coast Scene, Mount Desert, 1863 (Detail). Oil on canvas. Bequest of Clara Hinton Gould, 1948.178