The Hudson River School: APUSH Topics to Study for Test Day

Before the Hudson River School, American art followed the Neoclassical tradition. Paintings were mainly portraits and still lifes. So, what was the Hudson River School exactly? Check out our Hudson River School APUSH review to prepare to answer questions on the exam.

What is the Hudson River School?

The Hudson River School was a mid-19th century art movement that focused on nature. Before this, Western artists portrayed nature as evil or as something wild that needed to be civilized.

The Hudson River School artists portrayed humans and nature coexisting. They celebrated landscapes and showed their appreciation for “untouched” lands. The artists also explored themes of discovery, exploration, Romanticism, and Nationalism.

The Hudson River School was named for the place where many of its paintings were created: the Hudson River Valley, in the White Mountains of North England.

Why is the Hudson River School Important?

Hudson River School APUSH topics are important to study because the movement is considered the first truly “American” art style. Although the artists were inspired by both European artists and American writers, the art movement was a first for the United States.


Approximately 1825 to 1875

Hudson River School Artists


  • Thomas Cole: Considered the founder of the Hudson River School, Thomas Cole painted landscapes of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson River Valley. His artwork was popular at the time.
  • Frederic Edwin Church: Although he was an architect, farmer, and landscaper, he enjoyed painting. He studied with Thomas Cole and painted landscapes from his many travels.
  • Thomas Doughty: He worked exclusively on landscapes, especially painting rivers and mountains in Pennsylvania, New York, New England, and the Hudson River Valley. In 1827, the National Academy of Design elected him as an Honorary Academician.
  • Asher Durand: Even though he started out doing engravings, he moved on to paintings after traveling with Thomas Cole to the Adirondack Mountains. Then, he focused on painting rocks, foliage, and trees.
  • Albert Bierstadt: After traveling west on an overland survey expedition, he painted popular American West landscapes.
  • Martin Johnson Heade: At first, he painted landscapes. Then he went to Brazil and discovered hummingbirds. After that, most of his paintings featured a hummingbird.

Hudson River School APUSH Sample Questions

Question 1

What was the Hudson River School known for painting?
A. landscapes
B. portraits
C. still lifes
D. battle scenes

Answer: A. Departing from the Neoclassical tradition, the Hudson River School did not paint people or objects. They went out into nature and painted what they saw, which resulted in realistic landscape paintings.

Question 2

What did Thomas Cole found in the U.S.?
A. Mormonism
B. Transcendentalism
C. Oberlin College
D. Hudson River School

Answer: D. People credit Thomas Cole for founding the Hudson River School. His artwork was popular. He worked with several other painters from this time.

Question 3

What was the Hudson River School?
A. The first American college to accept both men and women.
B. The first truly American art style, which focused on landscapes.
C. A school for tradesmen who worked around the Hudson River Valley.
D. A group of transcendentalist writers who formed a commune.

Answer: B. Hopefully this question was easy for you. However, be prepared to discuss what the Hudson River School was and its importance to U.S. history. The name may throw you off on the exam (no, it wasn’t actually a brick-and-mortar school). Just remember that it was an art movement in the mid-to-late 19th century. The artists of the Huston River School created landscape paintings that featured the magnificence of nature.

Other Ways to Prepare for Hudson River School APUSH Questions

If you haven’t already, take a few minutes to explore artwork from the Hudson River School. Do you see the nature themes? Do you notice any similarities among or differences between the works? As you prepare to answer Hudson River School APUSH questions on the exam, think about these pictures. Good luck!

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  • Jamie Goodwin

    Jamie graduated from Brigham Young University- Idaho with a degree in English Education. She spent several years teaching and tutoring students at the elementary, high school, and college level. She currently works as a contract writer and curriculum developer for online education courses. In her free time, she enjoys running and spending time with her boys!

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