Most of the finest works of the Hudson River school were painted between 1855 and 1875, after the death of its founder, Thomas Cole. During this time, artists like Frederic Edwin Church and Albert Bierstadt were celebrities. When Church exhibited paintings such as Niagara or Icebergs of the North, thousands of people lined up and paid fifty cents a head to view the solitary works.

The epic size of the landscapes in these paintings, unexampled in earlier American painting, reminded Americans of the vast, untamed, and magnificent wilderness of North America. Such works were being painted during the period of settlement of the American West, preservation of national parks, and establishment of green city parks.

Works by artists of this second generation are often described as examples of Luminism, adding a dream-like, hyperreal atmosphere to strongly romantic settings. Albert Bierstadt painted seemingly endless landscapes of Yosemite and the landscapes of the American West, mountains, valleys, and idyllic natural settings.

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