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Alps, Early American Travellers in the Alps

Early American Travellers in the Alps. The paintings of “The Hudson River School,” exhibited in 1945 under the auspices of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, include many mountain landscapes in the early American tradition. It has been interesting to select from the catalogue those artists whose biographical sketches indicate that they had travelled in the Alps, thus adding to the list contained in Early American Ascents (1943).

Washington Allston (1779-1843; Harvard, 1800), during the winter 1804-05 crossed the St. Gotthard Pass to Lake Maggiore on his way to Rome. As he was the most important figure in American landscape painting at the beginning of the nineteenth century, it is of interest that he remarked on the “poetic truth” of Turner's Swiss scenery.

Allston was the teacher of Samuel F. B. Morse (1791-1872; Yale, 1810), who returned across the Alps from Rome in 1831 and painted the view of the Wetterhorn and the Falls of the Reichenbach, now in the Newark Museum.

John Vanderlyn (1776-1852) went to Paris with Allston in 1803, and two years later journeyed through Switzerland to Italy. Alvin Fisher (1792-1863) made the Grand Tour in 1825. Thomas Cole (1801-48), on the advice of Washington Allston, visited Switzerland during his second trip abroad, 1841, while a visit to Sicily gave rise to four paintings of Mt. Etna. Jasper F. Cropsey (1823-1900) was in Switzerland in 1847.

Asher B. Durand (1796-1886) crossed Switzerland from the Rhine to the Italian Lakes in 1840, and was ecstatic over the scenery. During his return he painted icebergs from the steamer, a subject that excited other contemporary artists such as F. E. Church.

John F. Kensett (1818-72), who had accompanied Durand to Europe in 1840, remained there for seven years, during which time he also visited Switzerland.

Worthington Whittredge (1818-72) went to Düsseldorf in 1849, where he had the curious experience of serving as the model for the General in Emanuel Leutze’s painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware. He afterward travelled in Switzerland and remained in Europe for ten years. In 1865 he painted in Colorado and New Mexico, while accompanying General Pope on an inspection tour through the Rockies.

Frederick Edwin Church (1826-1900), inspired by Humboldt, painted Chimborazo and Cotopaxi during his journeys to South America in 1853 and 1857, and in 1859 went to Labrador as the first artist to do so for the sole purpose of painting. In 1868 he visited the Bavarian Alps, painting at Salzburg and Berchtesgaden, his work marking the culmination of romantic landscape art in America up to that time.

J. M. T.