Introduction: Painting and Nature Writing

This presentation focuses on the role of landscape painting, landscape gardening, and the natural history sciences.

There were nevertheless other influences. This painting, Kindred Spirits by Asher Durand, shows the close relationship between landscape painting and nature writing.

To the left is Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of painting. On the right is William Cullen Bryant, a major nature poet of the nineteenth century and editor of Picturesque America, a set of books showing the natural beauty of the United States.

Poetry helped people learn how to describe the beauty of nature in words. At first, travelers simply stated that a place was beautiful at the end of a description. Later they included lines of nature poetry that seemed appropriate. Finally, they began using aesthetic language within the descriptions in such a way that readers knew the natural object was beautiful without having to be explicitly told.

 

 


Asher Durand, Kindred Spirits, 1849, New York Public Library