Artist: De Witt Clinton Boutelle
Title: Untitled (Hudson River Landscape with Indian)
Oil on canvas
40 x 55 1/8 in. (101.6 x 140 cm) Overall, 43 3/4 x 58 1/2 in. (111.1 x 148.6 cm) Frame
Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.
Find the person standing on the rocky ledge. Who is he?
What does he see in the distance?
What might he be thinking?
This is a landscape painting of the Hudson River Valley in New York. The river and valley are named in honor of Henry Hudson who explored the region around modern New York City for The Dutch East India Company in 1609. On a rock near the lower middle of the painting, a solitary figure, an American Indian, stands on a cliff. He is dressed in a long red cape and full headdress, facing the valley with his hand on his heart. Several sailboats move through the water below. Far off in the distance is a town that foreshadows the growth of settlement. Painted two centuries after the colonies had claimed independence, the artist, De Witt Clinton Boutelle, imagines how the American Indian may have first seen the sails of settlers’ ships along the Hudson River Valley.
America’s first group of artist dedicated to a specific style was the Hudson River School, which began in the 1820s. The group was not a conventional school, but rather an art movement that developed its own theories regarding romanticized landscape painting in America. These paintings revealed the grandness of nature. De Witt Clinton Boutelle was a follower of the Hudson River School style, inspired by the work of artists such as Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand (works by both artists are found in the Chrysler collection).
Looking back to the painting, how might an American Indian see this moment differently than a European settler?
Was Boutelle trying to capture the grandness of nature or a historical moment? What makes you say so? Why?