Tonalism: Pathway from the Hudson River School to Modern Art

Curated by Karen Quinn

August 28 – December 8, 2019
Morgan Anderson and Howard Greenberg Family Galleries

Birge Harrison, St. Lawrence River Sunset, n.d., oil on canvas, New York State Museum, Historic Woodstock Art Colony: Arthur A. Anderson Collection


Tonalism has long been considered a conservative late 19th-century approach to painting, often discussed as the antithesis to Impressionism.  Recent publications have begun to reconsider Tonalism as innovative in its approach to representation both conceptually and as realized, an approach that helped to lay the groundwork for modernism and contemporary art.  This exhibition will reposition Tonalism in this new context.

Organized by the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art and the New York State Museum, and following their institutional missions, this exhibition will feature Tonalism as practiced by painters and photographers with ties to New York. Although many were based in New York City, the work of artists across the state will be explored.  Building on the renowned work of such initial Tonalist trailblazers as James McNeil Whistler and George Inness, the focus will be on mostly lesser-known masters of Tonalism in an effort to shed light on their contributions.  They range from Frederick Kost on Long Island to those associated with Woodstock, including Birge Harrison; to Alexander Wyant in Arkville and Keene Valley, and Walter Launt Palmer and others in Albany. 

Many of the works included in this exhibition will be loaned by private collectors, thereby offering viewers the chance to see works that are not in the public domain.

George Inness, Keene Valley, Adirondacks, 1885, oil on board, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, gift of Elizabeth Koppitz, 1961.001.001

Karen Quinn is Senior Historian/Curator, Art and Culture at the New York State Museum. Following its presentation at the Dorsky Museum of Art the exhibition will travel to New York State Museum, Albany, NY, (February 15 – June 14, 2020).