Women Artists

Six Female Artists of the Hudson River School

Alexandra Kiely 26 May 2022 min Read

The Hudson River School was a movement in American landscape painting being the first independent artistic tradition in the country. It was very popular in the middle half of the 19th century due to its focus on American scenery and nationalism. Notable artists among the Hudson River School are Thomas Cole, Frederick Edwin Church, and Albert Bierstadt. Books about the Hudson River School usually focus on male artists, but there’s much more to the story. Many women also painted the American landscape in the 19th century, as both professionals and amateurs. While they’re not as well known today as their male counterparts, many were very highly regarded in their time. Meet six women artists of Hudson River School below.

1. Louisa Davis Minot 

female hudson river school
Women of Hudson River School: Louisa Davis Minot, Niagara Falls from the American Side, 1818, New York Historical Society, New York, NY, USA.

Louisa Davis Minot is known only through two paintings of Niagara Falls. They are spectacular and show that she was skilled and well-trained. Many artists painted Niagara Falls, and Minot’s hold their own against any of the others. She also wrote a vivid description of the Falls, which was published in North American Review in 1815.

2. Sarah Cole 

female hudson river school
Women of Hudson River School: Sarah Cole, Mt. Aetna, Albany Institute of History and Art, Albany, NY, USA.

Sarah Cole was the younger sister of Hudson River School founder Thomas Cole and a talented artist in her own right. The scenes she chose to paint were often similar to those of her brother, which isn’t surprising given that they were close and were known to have gone on sketching trips together. In addition to her own works, she also made some copies of her brother’s paintings.

3. Eliza Pratt Greatorex 

female hudson river school
Women of Hudson River School: Eliza Pratt Greatorex, Landscape near Cragsmoor, NY, 1863, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, New Paltz, NY, USA.

Eliza Pratt Greatorex achieved great respect in American art and New York society alike. In fact, she was successful enough to be able to support herself and her young children through her art after being widowed in 1858. Greatorex painted scenes of the northeastern United States and of Europe. She was the first woman to attain membership in the National Academy of Design – showing the esteem in which she was held during her career.

4. Helen Mary Knowlton 

female hudson river school Beach Scene by Helen Mary Knowlton
Women of Hudson River School: Helen Mary Knowlton, Beach Scene. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Helen Mary Knowlton studied under French-trained landscape painter William Morris Hunt and eventually took over teaching his class at his request. She has also trained in Munich, Germany, which was popular at the time. Knowlton had a Luminist’s interest in showing lighting effects and an Impressionist’s loose method of handling paint. In addition to teaching and painting, she wrote extensively about art and was a longtime art critic for the Boston Post.

5. Laura Woodward 

female hudson river school Jungle Rain, Palm Beach by Laura Woodward
Women of Hudson River School: Laura Woodward, Jungle Rain, Palm Beach. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Laura Woodward was originally from New York, where she first painted and exhibited her work. However, she moved to Florida in the second half of her life, and that’s where she made some of her most compelling paintings. They show Florida’s landscape and foliage, and they’ve been credited with making people interested in traveling to Florida in the early 20th century. Her work also convinced Henry Flagler to establish the Hotel Royal Poinciana in Palm Beach. Though the scenery is very different between her northern and southern subjects, both share a vibrant color palette.

6. Mary Josephine Walters 

female hudson river school Landscape with Three Ladies Sitting Under a Tree by Mary Josephine Walters
Women of Hudson River School: Mary Josephine Walters, Landscape with Three Ladies Sitting Under a Tree, private collection. WikiArt.

Mary Josephine Walters, the last female Hudson River School artist we will talk about, studied with the School’s leader Asher Durand, and their work has obvious stylistic similarities. She was a full-time professional artist and exhibited at major institutions like the National Academy of Design and the San Francisco Art Association. Her works present detailed views of scenery in New York’s Hudson River Valley. They often feature lots of foliage and beautiful effects of light.

Bibliography

1.

MacLean, Maggie, “First American Women Painters”, History of American Women, 13 November 2015. Accessed 4 Mar 2017.

2.

MacLean, Maggie, “Eliza Greatorex: Painter, Illustrator and Pen and Ink Artist”, History of American Women, 16 April 2016. Accessed 4 Mar 2017.

3.

Manthorne, Kathie, “Eliza Pratt Greatorex: Becoming a Landscape Painter” in The Cultured Canvas: New Perspectives on American Landscape Painting, Nancy Siegel ed. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2011, pp. 185-216.

4.

Siegel, Nancy, “’We the Petticoated Ones: Women of the Hudson River School” in The Cultured Canvas: New Perspectives on American Landscape Painting, Nancy Siegel ed. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2011, pp. 148-184.

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