American Eden

Based on the North Carolina Museum of Art exhibit, this documentary presents America through the eyes of 19th century painters captivated by the magnificence of our nation's beautiful landscapes.

American EdenThe breathtaking beauty of America and the significance of the land have inspired many great creations, among those being the works of art created by a group of 19th century painters who were members of the Hudson River school.

Based on the current exhibit at the NC Museum of Art, American Eden presents America through the eyes and imaginations of a group of painters who were captivated by the land's magnificence. The artists of the Hudson River school were living and painting during a time when America was becoming its own country with its own ideas, government and people. Dr. Lawrence J. Wheeler, director of the North Carolina Museum of Art, says that these paintings display "a country distinguishing itself from Europe."

The popularity of landscape painting has varied throughout the years, but in the early 19th century it was extremely popular. In this program UNC-TV presents the painters who began the trend, known as the Hudson River school. These painters celebrated the novelty of the American landscape, its freshness and variety. Their work helped to create a national identity for our young nation. Christine Rogers talks with Curator John Coffey and Director of the North Carolina Museum of Art Larry Wheeler about the paintings in the exhibit. The exhibit comes to North Carolina from the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, the nation's first art museum.

These paintings portray a time when Americans were fervent with the desire to step out of their homes and experience the lands that surrounded them. "The high fever of romanticism inspired Americans with rhapsodic reverence for nature in all its fierce beauty," says John Coffey, chief curator and deputy director of collections and programs. "In this context landscape painting acquired unique power to deliver what amounted to visual sermons."

UNC-TV viewers have the opportunity not only to watch the special, but to see the actual exhibit at the NC Museum of Art. The North Carolina Museum of Art displayed American Eden: Landscape Paintings of the Hudson River School from the Collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art from June 6 through August 29, 2004. The collection plays host to more than 50 works by 25 artists, including Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, Asher B. Durand and Albert Bierstadt.