In the nineteenth century, as white Americans proceeded to build and delineate.
their nation, they carried on a process they had started as colonists, settling a new world, and transforming its landscape, which had been modelled by Native Americans up to that time. Meanwhile, this landscape profoundly affected postcolonial United States. It was a time where one discovered complicated links between material conditions, ideology and power. It affected the physical context of the American environment and the changing experience of American life. .
The nineteenth century saw the continental expansion of the United States and a transportation revolution that resulted from it, as well as industrialization, astonishing population growth and urbanization. The artistic community was called into action, producing whole schools of painting, which glorified the development of the nation. Starting with the Hudson River School founded by Thomas Cole, the nation obtained a visual representation of Manifest Destiny. While the shift to landscape painting in Europe at about the same time was seen as a move away from the more eminent topics of historical painting, in America the representation of landscape by the Hudson River School was understood as a form of historical painting in which the landscape was filled with culturally rich iconographic and symbolic meaning.
Through different paintings, Thomas Cole's Hunter's Return (1845), Asher B. Durand's Progress (1853), George Inness' Lackawanna Valley (1855), Frances F. Palmer's Across the Continent (1868) and John Gast's American Progress or Manifest Destiny (1872), we will try to understand how perception of American progress, technical as well as geographical, changed, and how it was rendered through these paintings.
The so-called Hudson River School appeared in the mid 1820s. The inauguration of the Erie Canal gave support to expansion to the Midwest and by extension to the rest of the country.