Sir Walter Scott and the Hudson River School of Painting
Kerry Dean Carso
This essay examines the influence of Sir Walter Scott‘s historical romances on the artists of the Hudson River School of American landscape painting. Scotts writings inspired paintings of medieval castles, fictional and actual, as well as scenery related to Scott‘s life and literary works. Many American artists visited these sites first-hand and painted or sketched them, providing a visual record of the tourist experience of Great Britain.That so many American artists engaged in painting castles suggests the paradoxical nature of American culture in the nineteenth century, when commentators clamored for a uniquely American culture, even while American authors and artists copied or borrowed from European culture. Castles function as perhaps the ultimate European signifier in otherwise generalized landscapes. This essay argues that those American artists who included castles in the landscape gave American culture a modicum of legitimacy in an era of rising American nationalism.