The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
In the Spotlight: Myths of the Hudson River School
When: January 15–February 27, 2022
About the Show
This focused exhibition presents recently acquired photography and prints that challenge enduring myths about the Hudson River School: Popular narratives portray Hudson River School painters like Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823–1880) as intrepid, solitary geniuses who depicted the Hudson River Valley landscape as pristine and uninhabited. Nineteenth-century portrait photographs of Gifford’s sisters, mother, and father illuminate how Gifford’s reputation as a painter was supported through domestic and family life. Two prints by local contemporary artist Jean-Marc Superville Sovak directly challenge the Hudson River School myth of untouched landscape by inserting Black figures borrowed from the contemporaneous abolition movement into nineteenth-century illustrations depicting the Hudson River Valley. Describing these settings as “sites of survival,” Sovak shows how the idealized depiction of this area as untouched landscape negated the forced labor and displacement of Black and Indigenous peoples.