Cover image for American sublime : landscape painting in the United States, 1820-1880
American sublime : landscape painting in the United States, 1820-1880
Wilton, Andrew.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
282 pages : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 30 cm
General Note:
Published to accompany an exhibition at Tate Britain, London, 21 February - 19 May 2002.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ND1351.5 .W55 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize
ND1351.5 .W55 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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The painters who came to be known as the Hudson River School--Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, Frederic Edwin Church, Jasper Cropsey, Sanford Robinson Gifford, and others--found inspiration in our young country's natural wonders and were the first to paint many of its still-wild vistas. As America was settled and the wilderness receded, their successors--most notably Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran--carried their quest for the sublime to the Far West, communicating its breathtaking grandeur in brilliant views of Rocky Mountain peaks, roaring waterfalls, and vast canyons. Within a single generation these artists established the dramatic approach to American landscape painting that is celebrated in this stirringly beautiful book. The freshness of their vision, the intensity of their invention, and the energy of their execution were all born of the urgency these artists sensed in the life of America itself.

Published to accompany a major transatlantic exhibition, American Sublime rejoices in America the Beautiful as seen in some of the country's most glorious landscape paintings. It contains a fully illustrated catalogue of all the paintings in the exhibition, with more than one hundred color plates, including three gatefolds. Biographies of the artists are included, and thoughtful and elegantly written essays cast new light on their ambitions and achievements. The lucid text places American landscape painting in the context of the international art world and of the European landscape tradition. And it explores ideas of national identity and empire in America, looking in particular at how these landscapes, whether real or imagined, reflect Americans' hopes and fears for their country.

As a tribute to some of our most important American artists and the land that inspired them, this stunningly illustrated book will have a deep and wide appeal.

Author Notes

Andrew Wilton is former Keeper and Senior Research Fellow at the Tate Gallery. He is the author of The Swagger Portrait and the editor of Grand Tour and The Age of Rossetti . Tim Barringer is Assistant Professor of Art History at Yale University. He is coeditor of Colonialism and the Object and Reading the Pre-Raphaelites .

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

None of the domestic cleverness of folk art is evident in American Sublime, a gorgeously illustrated and learned history of nineteenth-century American landscape painting, a sophisticated school rooted in British romanticism and American transcendence. Wilton, of the Tate Gallery, considers the influence of Edmund Burke's theory of sublimity and the surge in scientific development on American painters, while coauthor Tim Barringer, an art historian at Yale, discusses the profound effect on the painters' imaginations of a pristine land free of Western religious, literary, and historical associations. The American "instinct to find spiritual significance in nature" is manifest in the luminous beauty and high drama of the panoramic paintings of Frederic Edwin Church, Albert Bierstadt, and Jasper Francis Cropsey. But even as these painters and their colleagues, including Fritz Hugh Lane and Martin Johnson Heade, celebrated the glory of America, the frenetic growth of the nation transformed the land before their very eyes. By the time Thomas Moran was painting the Grand Canyon in 1892, the "wilderness aesthetic of the landscape painter" had become instrumental in protecting such sacred places from destruction. Wilton and Barringer's commentary is stimulating and important, and the exceptional plates are bliss unadulterated. Donna Seaman.

Library Journal Review

The Hudson River School and their successors were the first American artists to create a specifically "American" type of artwork an artwork that celebrated the awe-inspiring panoramas of the untamed American landscape and incorporated deep feelings of national identity. This catalog accompanies an exhibition that travels both to Great Britain and to the United States and includes over 113 stunningly dramatic and truly "sublime" American landscapes. The book is divided into eight thematic sections and includes two scholarly essays. In the first, Barringer (history of art, Yale) compares the tradition of landscape painting in America and Britain, while in the second, Wilton (senior research fellow, Tate Gallery, London) explores the concept of the sublime and the formation of a pictorial language that Americans would come to embrace and identify as uniquely their own. While the essays and catalog entries are well written and informative, providing a geographic and historical context for the artwork, it is the stunning illustrations (including several two-page foldouts) that dazzle the eye and imagination. Recommended for all libraries. Kraig Binkowski, Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Focusing on the works of ten artists, this catalog to the highly acclaimed international exhibition "American Sublime" surveys American landscape painting from the period 1820-80. The two essays by Wilton (Tate) and Barringer (Yale) redefine the achievements of these artists and serve both as an important resource for understanding their accomplishments and as the basis for further research. Wilton lucidly explores, with insight and precise reasoning, the development of an American sublime, discussing the works of artists who found inspiration, majesty, and vast scale in the wonders of the New World. He closely analyzes American artists' reliance on and independence from European art, notably English painting of the 19th century, and the 18th-century aesthetic concept of the sublime. The equally scholarly Barringer places landscape painting within the social and cultural context of 19th-century America, though his heavy-handed assertions that the landscape painting reflects an American imperialism are unconvincing. The catalog includes a discussion and illustration of each painting in the exhibition, with more than 100 color plates and three gatefolds as well as biographies of the artists and an extensive bibliography. Highly and enthusiastically recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through faculty. J. Houghton Muskegon Museum of Art

Table of Contents

Forwardp. 7
Acknowledgmentsp. 9
Andrew Wilton: The Subline in the Old World and the Newp. 10
Tim Barringer: The Course of Empires: Landscape and Identity in America and Britain, 1820-1880p. 38
Andrew Wilton And Tim Barringer: Catalogue
1 Wildernessp. 66
2 The Course of Empirep. 86
3 The Still Small Voicep. 114
4 ""Awful Grandeur""p. 132
5 Painting from naturep. 156
6 A Transcendental Visionp. 186
7 Explorationsp. 216
8 The Great Westp. 228
Graham C. Boettcher Biographies of the Artistsp. 252
Notesp. 262
Bibliographyp. 272