Land Escapes

One of the most admired figures in any community is the local artist, and our area has been playing hosts to renowned artists for hundreds of years. The first local artists, the Hudson River School painters, began their work nearly two hundred years ago, as landscape painters. Despite the name, they were widely traveled and did not exclusively paint scenes of the Hudson. These artists, inspired by the beautiful, untouched vistas of early America, made an enormous and lasting impression on art throughout the western world.

Before the Hudson River School, landscape painting was not held in high regard in Europe, and it was Europe that set the standards for art. Portraiture and figure painting were the focus of European artists and audiences; landscape painters were widely considered ‘second-class’ artists. America itself was not viewed as a particularly artistic or cultural nation. The Hudson River School would change both those views.

Although named collectively, the Hudson River School was not an organized group of painters, but a movement of similarly inclined artists working during the same era. Philosophies differed from one artist to the next, but there were a few beliefs that were almost universally held. One such belief was that art for the sake of money was not truly art, and a person who produced works of art simply for financial gain was not a real artist. However, some of the painters of the Hudson River School did become wealthy as their work attracted attention from collectors.

Accuracy was another important matter. It was felt that nature was beautiful as it was; any embellishments or alterations of the subject were deeply frowned upon. But there were some who deviated from this credo. They would study and sketch natural features in the field, then return to the studio and create a landscape from the imagination, using the carefully sketched features as building blocks.

Whatever the methods and standards, the work of the Hudson River School became highly esteemed both in Europe and America. The height of popularity came during the mid-nineteenth century, when painters such as Asher Durand, Thomas Cole, and Samuel Morse were at their most prolific. By the end of the nineteenth century, the heyday of landscapers was at its end, and by the turn of the century, other genres of art became the new focus.

To this day, homegrown artists like Tom Sarrentonio, Kevin Cook, Nancy McShane, and Robert Selkowits create gorgeous Hudson Valley landscapes with a love of place that makes time stand still. Their work and the work of other final local artists is quietly creating its own “school.”


— Kathleen Oldrey, grade 12, Wallkill Senior High School



The Wallkill Flats by Tom Sarrantonio

The Wallkill Flats by Tom Sarrantonio, oil on canvas, 42″ x 24″. Private collection. Tom’s work is often included in exhibits through out the Hudson Valley and often available at local galleries and exhibits.



The Beach At Stony Point by Kevin Cook

The Beach At Stony Point by Kevin Cook, oil on canvas. Work available at Mark Gruber Gallery, New Paltz and others.



Hay bales on Bussey Hollow by Nancy McShane

Hay bales on Bussey Hollow by Nancy McShane, 5″ x 7″ Acrylic on paper.



Catskill Farmland by Robert Selkowitz

Catskill Farmland by Robert Selkowitz, pastel on paper 19″ x 25″. Robert’s work is available at his studio and in many exhibitions.