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Alfred Thompson Bricher

Born: 1837, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States of America
Died: 1908, New Dorp, Staten Island, New York, United States of America

The Hudson River at West Point
1864

Oil on canvas
Image: 20 1/8 x 42 1/4 in. (51.1 x 107.3 cm)
Frame: 33 1/4 x 55 3/8 x 4 3/16 in. (84.5 x 140.7 x 10.6 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1993.17
Signed: Lower left: A.T. Bricher 1864
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

One of Alfred Thompson Bricher's early works, The Hudson River at West Point looks north from the west bank of the Hudson River, in southern New York State, with Mount Taurus and the village of Cold Spring visible on the far shore. The distant mountains on the right and tall trees on the left frame the generous vista, which is bathed in the hazy light of late afternoon. Contrast between the strong color and clearly defined forms on the left side of the image and the softer, sun-bathed water and mountains in the right distance heightens the illusion of deep recession into space. Boats on the calm river, two ladies contemplating the view from the expanse of green lawn atop West Point, and a house on the border of the woods beyond them lend a sense of scale and reassuring domesticity to balance the grandeur of nature. A mood of peaceful repose pervades the scene, with deep shadows creeping from the left and autumnal foliage adding an elegiac note. The work was painted during the darkest days of the Civil War, when many American artists turned to peaceful scenes of American nature as a refuge from the national trauma.

The painting's insistently horizontal format, almost invisible brushwork, and emphasis on the effects of glowing light suggest Bricher's affinity with the movement modern scholars have dubbed luminism, an emerging trend in American landscape painting at the time. The early influence of one of its leading practitioners, landscape artist John Frederick Kensett, is apparent in Bricher's handling of the surfaces and colors of the distant water and mountains, seen as if through a hazy veil of humid, later-afternoon sunlight. Within half a decade, Bricher would begin to apply a luminist aesthetic to the coastal scenes that became his specialty. Before 1870, however, the young artist painted views that, according to current convention, exalted the grandeur of American nature and acknowledged growing tourism to interior settings in New York and New England. These included not only the Hudson River but New York's Lake George, of which his Lake George from Bolton's Landing (TF 1992.17), also in the Terra Foundation's collection, shares many elements with The Hudson River at West Point.

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Provenance

The artist
Beverly McCoy, 1952
Eric and Martha McCoy, Worcester, Massachusetts, 1982
Kennebunkport Maritime Museum, Kennebunkport, Maine, 1990
Roger King Gallery of Fine Art, Newport, Rhode Island
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1993

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Exhibition History

Attitudes Toward Nature, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, September 30, 1995–April 21, 1996.

Selections from the Collections, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 12–August 27, 1997.

Rivières et rivages: les artistes américains, 1850–1900 (Waves and Waterways: American Perspectives, 1850–1900), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 2000. [exh. cat.]

Permanent collection installation, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, December 9-February 11, 2001.

Ships at Sea: Sailing Through Summer, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, June 6–August 26, 2001.

D'une colonie à une collection: le Musée d'Art Américain Giverny fête ses dix ans (From a Colony to a Collection: Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the Musée d'Art Américain Giverny), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, March 30–June 16, 2002.

American Classics from the Collection, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, May 14–June 15, 2003.

La Scène américaine, 1860–1930 (Americans at Home, 1860–1930), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, Giverny, France, July 10–October 30, 2005.

La Scène américaine, 1860–1930 (Americans at Home, 1860–1930), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, Giverny, France, April 1–October 29, 2006.

Manifest Destiny, Manifest Responsibility: Environmentalism and the Art of the American Landscape. Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, Illinois and Loyola University Museum of Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizers). Venue: Loyola University Museum of Art, May 17–August 10, 2008. [exh. cat.]

Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North, Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, Illinois and The Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois (organizers). Venue: The Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois, September 26, 2013–March 24, 2014. [exh. cat]

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Published References

Southgate, M. Therese. "The Cover." The Journal of the American Medical Association 272:11 (September 21, 1994): 835. Text p. 835; ill. cover (color).

Brownlee, Peter John. Manifest Destiny / Manifest Responsibility: Environmentalism and the Art of the American Landscape. (exh. cat., Loyola University Museum of Art, Chicago, Illinois). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for American Art and Loyola University Museum of Art, 2008. Text p. 34 (checklist).

Brownlee, Peter John, Sarah Burns, Diane Dillon, Daniel Greene, and Scott Manning Stevens.Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North with a foreword by Adam Goodheart.(exh. Cat., Terra Foundation for American Art and Newberry Library). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. Text pp. 148, 150, 151, 160 (checklist); Fig. 87, p. 149 (color).

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