Landscape in eighteenth century America and its European sources

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University of Delaware
Concerned with the relation of American landscape painting of the eighteenth century to European landscape traditions, this thesis considers mainly landscape painting in the New England area and landscapes by known Colonial artists. The main force in European landscape in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was classical landscape. This style of landscape was developed from Italian and Northern European traditions by Annibale Carracci and was brought to an apex in the works of Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin. Classical landscape was particularly influential in England in the eighteenth century. This classical tradition can be seen in the Colonies in the Hatheway and Wetmore panels from Connecticut. ☐ Other European landscape traditions were also known in the Colonies, such as Flemish landscape of which elements can be found in the Makepeace-Ray panel. The most numerous American landscape type was the panorama. Generally, this type contains elements from Flemish, Dutch and classical traditions. Landscapes as different as the Burning of Danbury, Connecticut(?) and the works of Winthrop Chandler reveal the number of options available to the Colonial painter, who because of his lack of training had no fear of combining various ideas. The landscapes of Robert Feke and William Williams show the more sophisticated approach. ☐ Along with the landscapes influenced by European tradition, there existed the folk tradition of landscape which made little effort to emulate European forms. Colonial landscape painters, in addition to copying_ European landscape prints, incorporated views of English parks, which appeared in guide books, into their paintings. ☐ In the last decade of the eighteenth century there were three artists working in New England. Michele Felice Corné, who came from Italy to Salem, Massachusetts, painted landscapes that belonged stylistically to the eighteenth century and were not very different from those of his American counterparts. Ralph Earl received some training in England and returned to this country where he painted landscapes with an expansive quality reminiscent of nineteenth century American landscape. Most important was John Trumbull who studied and copied landscape prints. His Monte Video displays new ideas and at the same time tiresome repetition of European landscape elements. However, Trumbull was able to experiment with European ideas and was able in his position as head of the American Academy of Fine Arts in New York to influence the young American artists. Although there are many reasons for the development of the Hudson River School of landscape in the nineteenth century, such as the new wealth to support the arts and the conscious desire to create an art form for the new nation, it must be remembered that there was a Colonial tradition of landscape and that this tradition was particularly important in an area in close proximity to the Hudson River.