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The Adirondacks

William M. Hart

Artwork Details

The Adirondacks
circa 1848
William M. Hart
oil on canvas
27 in x 34 ⅞ in (68.58 cm x 88.58 cm);22 ⅛ in x 30 ⅛ in (56.2 cm x 76.52 cm);27 in x 34 ⅞ in x 1 ⅜ in (68.58 cm x 88.58 cm x 3.49 cm)
Museum Purchase


March 28 2009
In the 1840s and 50s, the boundaries of the United States were pushing ever further West, and the idea of the American landscape, with its soaring mountains, verdant forests, pristine rivers, and exotic inhabitants, held the imagination of the public. American scenery was celebrated in poetry, prose, and the visual arts, and the painters of what is now known as the Hudson River school, including William Hart, specialized in producing expansive views of it. Hart, in particular, was noted for his smooth, serene vistas executed in minute detail. The luxuriant and unspoiled landscape of the Adirondacks is the main subject of this painting, but it is inhabited by diminutive figures of Native Americans, one on the near shore facing the river and another on the water in a canoe. The idea that Native Americans coexisted, as here, harmoniously with nature was pervasive in American thought in the nineteenth century, and though they were admired for this quality, it also made them ripe for “civilizing” and justified governmental policies that caused the destruction of their cultures. The potential passing of these indigenous civilizations was a theme taken up by many artists of the period, and the darkening sky and juxtaposition of light and shadow in The Adirondacks may allude to their seemingly inevitable decline.

Subject Matter:

The painting depicts a scene from the Adirondack Mountains of up-state New York, possibly the shores along Lake Chateaugay, from the western shore of the Narrows, with Panther Mountain and Lyon Mountain in the distance.
“The Adirondacks” illustrates Hart’s embrace of the mannerism of the Hudson River School characterized by serene, pastoral, romantic landscapes. Hart depicts the American landscape as a bucolic setting, where humans and the natural world coexist harmoniously, and exploits the minuteness of the figure in the foreground and the storm clouds in the sky to emphasize the power and grandeur of nature.

Physical Description:

Landscape with minute figure standing on the banks of a lake among trees and boulders in the foreground and mountains in the distance; blue sky with dark storm clouds on left and white cumulonimbus cloud on right.

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