“Artist Brook,” a painting in the White Mountain School of Art style by Benjamin Champney.(COURTESY PHOTO)

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“Artist Brook,” a painting in the White Mountain School of Art style by Benjamin Champney.(COURTESY PHOTO)
JACKSON — The White Mountain School of Art is the body of work created during the 19th century by more than 400 artists who painted landscape scenes of the White Mountains of New Hampshire in order to promote the region and, consequently, sell their works of art.
As Wikipedia notes, many of the first artists were attracted to the region because of the 1826 tragedy of the Willey family, in which nine people lost their lives in a mudslide. These early works portrayed a dramatic and untamed mountain wilderness.
In 1827, one of the first artists to sketch in the White Mountains was Thomas Cole, founder of the style of painting that would later be called the Hudson River School.
The images stirred the imagination of Americans, primarily from the large cities of the Northeast who traveled to the White Mountains to view the scenes for themselves.
Others soon followed: innkeepers, writers, scientists and more artists. The White Mountains became a major attraction for tourists from the New England states and beyond. The circulation of paintings and prints depicting the area enabled those who could not visit, due to lack of means, distance or other circumstance, to appreciate its beauty.
Transportation improved to the region, particularly with the arrival of the railroads; inns and later grand resort hotels, complete with artists in residence, were built. Benjamin Champney (1817-1907), one of the early artists, popularized the Conway area — his home and studio still stand along Route 16, just north of the Red Jacket in North Conway. Other artists preferred the Franconia area, and still others ventured to Gorham, Shelburne and other communities of the north.
In addition to Cole and Champney, White Mountain artists included Albert Bierstadt, Asher B. Durand, Edward Hill, Thomas Hill, Winslow Homer, George Inness and John Frederick Kensett.
Although these artists all painted similar scenes within the White Mountains, each had an individual style that characterized his work.
The landscape paintings in the Hudson Riverptradition, however, eventually fell out of favor with the public. By the turn of the century, the era for White Mountain art had ended.
But they have been rediscovered and celebrated over the past half-century. In North Conway, the late Robert Goldberg was an avid collector and his dream was always to have a museum in the Mount Washington Valley. His collection ended up at the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College, but paintings in his collection have been displayed at regional exhibits on loan.
The Museum of the White Mountains at Plymouth State University in recent years is among the places where special exhibits have been held on the White Mountain School, as is the Jackson Historical Society’s Museum of White Mountain Art, located in the old Jackson Town Hall in Jackson and open Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and by appointment (603-383-4060; info@jacksonhistory.org). It also hosts an art sale by consignment through Jan. 31 of White Mountain School of Art). The current exhibit is on early women artists of the White Mountains and Jackson’s missing mansions.
Resources on the subject include Catherine Crawford’s book, “New Hampshire Scenery,” published in 1985, written for the New Hampshire Historical Society; and Robert McGrath’s “Gods in Granite: The Art of the White Mountains of New Hampshire,” published in 2001.
Whitemountainart.com is another great source.
CONWAY — The tents are back up in North Conway’s Schouler Park, and happening under those tents this weekend is the Mount Washington Valley Ar…
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