User Menu

MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

The Hudson River School and Westward Expansion

This slide show for fifth graders on Westward Expansion establishes a link between Art and Social Studies. In the second half of the 19th century a group of painters known as the Hudson River School arrived. Influenced by French painter Claude Lorraine and British painters John Constable and W. J. Turner, they were inspired to paint idyllic landscapes. Unlike the European artists, the American artists were in a unique situation in that the unexplored Western Wilderness was wide open and immediate to them. The opening of the Erie Canal exposed expansive, breathtaking vistas. Philosophers, writers and politicians intrigued by the beauty of the Catskills and the majesty of the Rockies embraced the new subject. Many (especially Democrats) embraced Manifest Destiny, others (especially Whigs, including Abraham Lincoln) opposed the movement, which they viewed as exploitation of the west as well as a continuation of slavery. Many American artists were ambivalent. Nonetheless, a new style of painting distinctly American emerged.

Related Resources