January 27-December 21, 2024

Wilderness Passing: The Hudson River Portfolio, 1820–1825

Selections from the WFMA Permanent Collection guest curated by Todd Giles, PhD, Professor of English


In the summer of 1820, Irish-born William Guy Wall (1792–1864) set out on an extended sketching tour of New York’s Hudson River Valley. Upon his return, Wall worked with English-born John Hill (1770–1850), who turned a selection of his original watercolor scenes from the trip into a series of hand-colored etchings known as aquatints. The ensuing twenty prints were published in New York City by Henry J. Megarey as The Hudson River Portfolio between 1820 and 1825.  

The Portfolio highlights 212 miles of the 315-mile course of the Hudson River from Lake Luzerne to Governor’s Island near Manhattan. Hill’s etchings, accompanied by text written by John Agg, were foundational in the development not only of American printmaking, but were also highly inspirational to the burgeoning Hudson River School of landscape painters. The founder of the Hudson River School, Thomas Cole, likewise took a trip through the Hudson Valley in the summer of 1825 in search of artistic inspiration. Painters like Cole, Asher Duran, and John Kensett were motivated by the belief, as Bayard Taylor put it in 1868, that “all landscapes, whatever may be their features, have a distinct individuality, and express a sentiment of their own.”  

The etchings on display here, which are considered some of the finest produced in 19th century America, helped make people aware of the beauty of the American landscape and thus stimulated a sense of national identity and pride of place, as did the novels of James Fennimore Cooper, the short stories of Washington Irving, and the poetry of William Cullen Bryant being written at that time.


The Vault Unlocked

Representations of the American landscape from the mid-1700s to the early 1800s tended to be documentary rather than artistic in style, focusing primarily on topographical views of towns and harbors. From there, artists’ attention turned to the distinctive landscape of the Eastern United States. Join host Todd Giles as he travels the 212 miles of the Hudson River by reflecting on the works of Joshua Shaw’s Picturesque Views of American Scenery (1820) and William Guy Wall’s The Hudson River Portfolio (1820–1825), both comprised of etchings by John Hill.

Read The Hudson River Portfolio



Five-Minute Tours: “Wilderness Passing: The Hudson River Portfolio, 1820–1825″ at Wichita Falls Museum of Arts

Experience 19th-century America’s wild beauty! See stunning artworks from “The Hudson River Portfolio,” featuring works from artists such as William Guy Wall, John Hill, Thomas Cole, Asher Duran, and John Kensett capturing scenes along the Hudson River landscape. Five-Minute Tours is part of Glasstire’s series of short videos for which commercial galleries, museums, nonprofits and artist-run spaces across the state of Texas send video walk-throughs of their current exhibitions. 

Watch Wilderness Passing Five-Minute Tour


Image Header: John Hill after William Guy Wall, View Near Fishkill (No. 17 of The Hudson River Portfolio), 1824, Engraving, hand-colored aquatint; Museum purchase 1989.

Image Left: John Hill after William Guy Wall, Hadley's Falls (No. 5 of The Hudson River Portfolio), 1820, Engraving, hand-colored aquatint; Museum purchase 1987.

Schedule a guided or Art of Seeing Art tour today! Give us a call at 940-397-8900 or send us an email at wfma@msutexas.edu.