Browse Highlights
The Hudson River School of American painting is one of the richest areas of the permanent collection. Paintings by many of the movement’s leading artists, including Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, Frederic Church, Jasper Cropsey, and Sanford Robinson Gifford, can be seen in a special, intimate suite of galleries at the Art Center featuring their views of the American Northeast and Europe. At the heart of the permanent collection, most of these paintings are small oils and oil sketches, many of them purchased by an early Vassar College trustee, Dr. Elias Lyman Magoon. A collector of British antiquarian watercolors and prints, Magoon began collecting American art in the mid-1850s while living in New York City. He sold his collection to Matthew Vassar in 1864 to help found the college’s permanent collection. In his searches as a private collector, Magoon sought smaller Hudson River School works so as to stretch his budget, and his purchases are installed in the galleries among several later generous gifts and purchases. A Baptist minister who saw these paintings as expressive of God’s creative power, Magoon gravitated toward the ideal of romantic, color-tinged landscapes brushed with seasonal tints and drama, fitting for these painters’ predilection for the picturesque and luminescent. Drawings are also a strength of the Art Center’s Hudson River School collection, and sheets are exhibited in the galleries on a rotating basis.
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