The Hudson River School
These two autumnal landscapes were painted in 1864 as the war dragged into its fourth year. At first glance these tranquil and lovely scenes appear unrelated to the conflict. Indeed, in design and mood they resemble many a peacetime landscape made during the antebellum decades by artists of the Hudson River School. Yet closer analysis reveals that they incorporate layers of meaning, public and private, that yoke them to the war.
The glorious scenery in Alfred Thompson Bricher’s Hudson River at West Point features a location near the US Military Academy, where many Union and Confederate officers trained. Bricher’s site was also not far from the West Point Iron and Cannon Foundry in Cold Spring, New York, which produced most of the US Army’s large guns. For Bricher, the military associations of the landscape carried deep personal meaning, as well. Hudson River at West Point serves as a memorial to his younger brother William, a Union soldier killed in combat at Spotsylvania in 1864.
Autumn Afternoon, the Wissahickon, to the June 1864 Great Central Fair, sponsored by the Philadelphia Branch of the US Sanitary Commission. This painting sold at the fair for $600, contributing to the commission’s efforts for wounded soldiers. Just one month after the painting sold, his brother William began serving in the US Army.