In 1841, American landscape painter and founder of the Hudson River school Thomas Cole wrote of the American landscape:
“It is a subject that to every American ought to be of surpassing interest; for whether he beholds the Hudson mingling its waters with the Atlantic, explores the central wilds of this vast continent, or stands on the margin of the distant Pacific, he is still in the midst of American scenery—it is his own land; its beauty, its magnificence, its sublimity, are all his…”
Cole thought all Americans should appreciate their country’s landscape, but in his writing, the Americans he addressed were men. Artists Mary Josephine Walters and Josephine Chamberlain Ellis were two 19th-century women who also captured this landscape and shaped the Hudson River school’s vision.A leafy canopy becomes an arched entry to the forest in Josephine Walters’ In the Woods. In her technique, subject, and the vertical orientation of her canvas, Walters pays homage to her teacher, Hudson River school artist Asher B. Durand. This canvas even shares a title with Durand’s In the Woods. Yet Walters departs from the decaying trees in Durand’s canvas, emphasizing the vitality of the natural world.
Want to learn more about women in the arts? Check out the Art Shot mini exhibition #NotJustMarch: Women Artists from the American Collection, which highlights the art, lives, and careers of just a few of the women in the American collection.