Artists react to nature |

Artists react to nature

Special to the Daily"Last of the Mohicans," by Thomas Cole.

Imagine plumes of smoke climbing skyward over Yellowstone National Park, originating not from Old Faithful but from industrial smokestacks located along the Yellowstone River. Imagine Half Dome in Yosemite National Park featured as a private climbing wall within a gated-community instead of an area protected as wilderness and set aside for people to enjoy in its natural state for generations to come.

Nearly 200 years ago, in the young country recently created as the United States of America, there wasn’t a priority for establishing a National Parks System or for setting aside designated “open space.” At that point, America was almost all wilderness and its boundaries were yet to be determined. However, along the banks of a river long explored by native Americans and early trappers, the nation’s first native school of landscape painting was born the Hudson River School of Art. An English emigrant, artist Thomas Cole, began investigating the 1825 New York wilderness areas of the Catskills and the Hudson River allowing the young nation to see the American landscape through art and thereby creating our nation’s first environmentalists. Dr. Elliot S. Vesell, a noted Thomas Cole historian, will discuss the characteristics and influences of this American genre of landscape painting in a presentation and dinner hosted by the Vail Symposium on Thursday, August 11th at the Grouse Mountain Grill in Beaver Creek.Vesell edited The Life and Works of Thomas Cole (Black Dome Press, 1997), which presents an intimate portrait of an artist who captured the spirit of his times and helped shape the soul of a new nation. Vesell, a private collector of Thomas Cole’s works, will describe the characteristics of the Hudson River School of landscape painting and emphasize the reactions of these artists to nature around them, and to the threats posed to this heritage by industrialization in the 19th century. This talk will feature 40 paired paintings from artists of the Hudson River School of Art.

During Cole’s peak popularity in the first half of the 1800s, artists flocked to New York’s Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley to confront the wilderness and emulate Cole’s vision. Unaware of what impact the industrial revolution would later have on America’s skylines, the Hudson River Valley artists captured vistas of a 19th-century America that contemporary visitors would have trouble locating today.The Hudson River School of Art encompasses two generations of painters inspired by Cole’s romantic images of America’s wilderness those of the Hudson River Valley and later, the newly opened West. The particular use of light effects, to lend an exaggerated drama to such elements as mist and sunsets, developed into a sub-specialty known as Luminism. Inspired by Cole, the best-known practitioners of this style were Frederic Edwin Church, Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran. Moran would earn the nickname “Father of the National Park System” because of the tremendous influence his paintings had on the emergence of Western tourism and on the members of Congress who resolved to set aside vast areas of the West as National Parks.A Hudson River Valley themed dinner will be offered in addition to the presentation. Grouse Mountain Grill Executive Chef Ted Schneider will prepare a three-course meal featuring cheeses, produce and culinary delights from the famed New York Hudson River Valley region. Admission to the presentation and dinner is $75 for Vail Symposium supporters and $100 for all others. This special evening will begin at 6:00 PM at the Grouse Mountain Grill located at The Pines Lodge in Beaver Creek. For more information or to make a reservation, please call the Vail Symposium at 970-476-0954.

In the U.S. there are over 100 million acres of federal land designated Wilderness by Congressional legislation.Eagle County residents are fortunate to be surrounded by the 2.3 million acre White River National Forest, the top recreation forest in the nation. Had it not been for Thomas Cole and his followers, our nation might never have decided to set aside the Wilderness areas for future generations to enjoy. Vail, Colorado

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