Hudson River School Art Cards

We created the printable Hudson River School Art Cards to help you teach your kids about fine art.  This is part of a series of art and music cards we here at Layers of Learning have created.  Each set includes postcard size images of famous paintings paired with a description card about each painting.

Asher B. Durand (1796-1886)Kindred Spirits1849Oil on canvas

The Hudson River School was begun in about 1825 by Thomas Cole and his friend Asher Durand in the Hudson River Valley and lasted until around 1900. It was part of the larger Romantic movement that was taking place in Europe, but instead of ruined abbeys being overtaken by trees, the Americans portrayed their cultural heritage, untamed wilderness. The themes of the Hudson River School include the ability to find and commune with the Divine in nature, the value of wild spaces and human interconnectedness with them, and how civilization encroaches on nature.

The Oxbow by Thomas Cole. This painting of a scene in Massachusetts shows a storm and craggy wilderness on the left and a sunlit peacefully cultivated valley on the right. Cole was showing the contrast and the inability of the two to coexist. He is also showing how civilization encroaches on and tames the wilderness. Image from Wikimedia, public domain.

The first generation of Hudson River School artists was succeeded by those who had to go west to the untamed Rockies to find new natural vistas, the east being completely tamed by the mid 1800’s. This second generation included Frederic Edwin Church, Thomas Moran, and Albert Bierstadt.

Heart of the Andes by Frederic Edwin Church. Church was part of the second generation of Hudson River School artists. This was painted after a visit to South America. It shows a vast wilderness, but at the heart we can find God as symbolized by the little church in the center and the natives worshiping at a cross in the lower left.  Image from Wikimedia, public domain.

Print these art cards and descriptions onto white card stock. Cut the cards out on the solid lines.

Hudson River School

Help your kids become familiar with these paintings and artists by playing matching games, sorting the cards, and quizzing over them.

  1. Place the cards face down, with images in one group and description cards in another group. Choose one card from each group. Determine if they match. You can read the description of the painting to see if they do.
  2. Arrange the paintings in order of date. Which were painted first? Can you see a progression of techniques or style in the cards?
  3. Hold up an image card and see if your child can remember the title of the painting. After these are mastered, use the image cards to memorize the titles and artists together. Finally master the titles, artists, and a little information about the painting.
  4. Go online and find more art by the same artists. Can you tell which artist painted the piece just by looking at the style?

Additional Layers

  • Fine art is not like other parts of education.  We do not look at paintings or learn to dance or read great literature because we think it might make us money or teach us a useful skill for later on.  These things are an end unto themselves.  We participate in fine art because we like it, it makes us better people, and it teaches us something about ourselves.  An education based purely on job training leads us to work and perhaps to money, but it does not lead us to beauty or understanding or virtue.
  • The conservation movement began in the United States, a place where untamed wilderness was being conquered at a rapid pace in the 1800’s.  Nature had long been conquered in Europe and the far east and progress was happening at a snails pace in other places around the world.  It was only in the US where man’s effect on nature could be seen and appreciated in real time that we see people begin to be concerned about preserving wild places.  Learn more about the beginnings of the conservation movement and especially the role of artists like Moran and Bierstadt in making the case for National Parks and preserves.
  • The Romantic Movement in general and especially the Hudson River School in particular saw nature as evidence of God and place where man could know God personally as opposed to Him being translated bit by bit through preachers and ancient prophets.  Many people today still find God most intimately in nature. What is your relationship with the natural world and your view of God?

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