surfing the stardust

Favorite Paintings # 5 – Kindred Spirits

It was in my first trek into the Himalayan mountains in 1981 that I realized exactly what the “Hudson River School” means to us.  As I hiked for weeks back into the depths of the valley of Kashmir and Ladakh, each and every one, regardless of how remote, with huts and hamlets, I slowly came to an understanding that just 100 years before 1829, the year this scene took place, there was no wilderness outside of the “New World”.  No matter how remote we can get in the massive mountains of Asia or the bush of Africa the fact remains that man has colonized and occupied all of the regions of the Eastern Hemisphere going way way back for several Hundreds of Thousands of years – eons really.  The famous book “That Wilder Image” by James T. Flexner shows how the artists from the Western European tradition were stunned by the raw vistas of untouched, prehistoric, and, in a sense, (given the sparsity of the Native America populations and their hunter-gatherer lifestyle), “uncivilized” forests and waters.

There are many fine painters from this “school” –  Bierstadt, Church, Cole, Durand, Moran, Kensett, Heade. And their works can be seen in virtually any city museum.  They depict our unique, as Americans, natural heritage. Asher_Durand_Kindred_Spirits I think it is really is the great period of American art, but regardless, these works capture the timelessness of our world before man.

This one is generally accepted as the “first” great painting from them.
Per Wiki: It is painting by Asher Brown Durand, who was part of the Hudson River School. It depicts the painter Thomas Cole, who had died in 1848, and his friend, poet William Cullen Bryant, in the Catskill Mountains. The landscape painting, which combines geographical features in Kaaterskill Clove and a minuscule depiction of Kaaterskill Falls, is not a literal depiction of American geography. Rather, it is an idealized memory of Cole’s discovery of the region more than twenty years prior, his friendship with Bryant, and his ideas towards American Nature.

The title comes from a poem by Keats’ Sonnets of Solitude, excerpted thus:

Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thought refin’d,
Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.

The painting is owned by the Wal-mart family “Walton Family Foundation” and is in display at their fabulous new museum in Bentonville Arkansas.  Admission to the whole museum is free… 


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