I’m in Kingston for another side trip, which is related in a roundabout way to Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School. Kingston is in Ulster County – not too far from Duchess County, but on the west bank of the Hudson.
In 1777 Kingston became the first capitol of New York State. The neoclassicist painter, John Vanderlyn, was born there two years previous.
Vanderlyn was employed by a print-seller in New York. He copied portraits in Gilbert Stuart‘s studio in Philadelphia, including one of Aaron Burr, who placed him under Stuart as a pupil.
Burr sent Vanderlyn to Paris in 1796 to study for five years. When he returned to the United States, he lived in Burr’s home (he was Thomas Jefferson’s Vice- President at the time) to paint the portraits of Burr and his daughter, Theodosia.
Marius amid the Ruins of Carthage by John Vanderlyn
Vanderlyn went back to Paris in 1803, spent several years painting in England and then on to Rome. There he painted Marius amid the Ruins of Carthage, which won a Napoleon gold medal in Paris. He remained in Paris for seven years.
Meanwhile, Aaron Burr was charged with the murder of Alexander Hamilton in duel. He fled to South Carolina and returned to Washington, D.C. to finish his term as Vice-President when charges were dropped.
Ironically, Jefferson charged Burr with treason – known as the Burr conspiracy – he was accused of preparing a private army to invade Florida, New Orleans or Mexico; or to lead a secession of the western states from the Union; or all of those things. Burr was found not guilty and fled to Europe to escape his creditors. He spent time in England, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and France. (While in Paris, Vanderlyn was his only support for awhile.)
Vanderlyn returned to the U.S. in 1815, where he painted portraits of Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson and others. Neither his portraits nor panoramas were financially successful (because he worked very slowly.) John Vanderlyn died in poverty in Kingston on September 23, 1852.
And now … as previously mentioned … John Vanderlyn’s relationship (in a roundabout way) to Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School:
Ariadne Asleep on the Island of Naxos by John Vanderlyn (1808 - 1812)
After Vanderlyn had won the Napoleon gold medal for Marius amid the Ruins of Carthage, he painted (while Aaron Burr was living at his home) the Ariadne Asleep on the Island of Naxos. The two paintings are considered Vanderlyn’s neoclassic masterpieces.
Ariadne was painted and engraved by Asher B. Durand, who along with Thomas Cole, founded the Hudson River School genre of American landscape .
Ariadne, Asher B. Durand (Oil on canvas)
Durand painted this exquisite copy of John Vanderlyn’s Ariadne Asleep on the Island of Naxos … Ariadne was the daughter of the king of Crete who helped the Greek hero Theseus escape the labyrinth, then was seduced and abandoned by him on the island of Naxos. Vanderlyn had chosen the subject of his original as a premise for painting a lifesize nude, the finest example of such in the early history of American art. However, the original was painted in Paris, the center of Neoclassicism, where nudity in art was practically the standard. Not so in the young republic of America, where Vanderlyn’s exhibitions of the painting were controversial …
Source: Asher B. Durand: Ariadne (97.29.2) | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art
And here ends my tour of the Hudson River School of landscape painting, which was the prevalent genre of 19th century American art.