Victor Gifford Audubon’s landscape paintings offer a glimpse into a moment of great change in North America. A great example of his skill in landscape painting, Hudson River View, New York State displays fine realism, as he naturalistically observes and documents the vista.
The early nineteenth century was a time of great change in Louisville, Kentucky, becoming the states first city in 1828. The city had a mass influx of settlers at the turn of the century, with the population tripling between 1810 and 1820. One such settler was John James Audubon (1785- 1851), the noted ornithologist, naturalist and painter who moved to Louisville in 1808. Audubon married Lucy Bakewell and had two sons: Victor Gifford Audubon (1809- 1860), and John Woodhouse Audubon (1812- 1862). Their eldest son studied painting under his father before assisting his him with the publication of his celebrated work The Birds of America, which was first published in sections between 1827 and 1838.
While Victor Gifford was a hardworking and successful clerk, travelling to London in 1832 to assist with the dissemination of his father’s work internationally, he was also a talented artist in his own right. In London he took lessons in landscape painting from the Scottish artist John Wilson, and exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy of Arts. Audubon returned to America in 1840 to assist his father with the publication of his final work, The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. Both Audubon brothers assisted their father with this publication, with Victor contributing to the landscape details of the final volume, accurately depicting trees, plants, and general landscape backgrounds that he had become so talented with and fond of. Back in America, Victor exhibited regularly at the National Academy of Design from 1840, and was elected as a National Academician in 1846.
Audubon’s oil on canvas painting Hudson River View, New York State, is a great example of his skill in landscape painting. The viewer notes the fine realism in this piece, as he naturalistically observes and documents the vista. His care and attention to detail, which he inherited from his father’s ethnographic studies of nature, results in a piece that is in equal measure informative and enchanting. This fine scene embodies many of the characteristics of the Hudson River School of painters. This intensely Romantic art movement promotes American settlement and exploration, harmoniously living with nature. This is particularly noticeable with the addition of the sailing boat in the distance and the small building on the hills, showing humanity as present yet unobtrusive in our majestic natural surroundings.
Victor Gifford Audubon’s landscape paintings offer a glimpse of a moment of great change in North America. Through his romantic, detailed portrayals of the Hudson River, such as Hudson River View, New York State¸ we note not only the artist’s skill in depicting nature with acute accuracy that he inherited from his father, but also a love and fascination for the remarkable landscape in which he lived and worked.