Like many, if not most, classifications of groups of artists, the “Hudson River School” was not a term invented by the artists themselves, but assigned by gallery owners and art historians to classify a number of artists with similar inclinations, most of whom worked in New York State in the mid-19th century.
Another assignment of a category by art historians on a sub-set of those painters is luminism, referring to painters who eventually began to dissolve the detailed representation of landscape into soft edged evocations of light and color.
Foremost among these was John Frederick Kensett, an American painter who studied in Europe, and whose initial admiration for the detailed naturalism of the 17th Dutch landscape masters, and the refined devotion to nature exemplified by Constable, gradually evolved into a Turneresque dissolution of detail-filled compositions into serene arrangements of land, sea and sky, in which light predominates.
Though dramatically different in painting style, the painters classed as luminists had in common with the later French Impressionists a desire to represent the effects of light and atmosphere. Over time, Kensett’s compositions became simplified, stripped of the inessential, and reduced to a poetic still point of light and color.
I very much like both phases of Kensett’s career: the wonderfully textural naturalism more commonly associated with the second generation Hudson River painters, and the lyrical whispers of his later canvasses.