Release Date: 
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Contact Information: 
Office of Communications Phone: (518) 474-1201


The New York State Museum will open Tonalism: Pathway from the Hudson River School to Modern Art, an exhibition exploring a late 19th century movement in painting with deep connections to New York State, on February 15.  On display through June 14, 2020, the exhibition features over 60 artworks – including paintings, prints, and photographs – from institutions across the state as well as private collections.

“We’re proud to present this new art exhibition at the State Museum,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa. “Art often conveys emotion and the Tonalism exhibition explores how artists created landscapes that evoke feeling and mood. Students and teachers will enjoy learning about this artistic style and exploring how it set the foundation for future art movements.”

“Art exhibitions are a great opportunity for visitors of all ages to learn not only about art but also about history and culture,” said Interim State Education Commissioner Shannon Tahoe. “The Tonalism exhibition at the State Museum invites visitors to see incredible artwork from cultural institutions and private collectors across the state, including some artwork that has rarely been exhibited in public.”

Emerging in the years after the Civil War, Tonalism appealed to audiences seeking respite from the devastation of war, the political turmoil of Reconstruction, and the rise of industrialization and urbanization. In the broadest sense, Tonalism can be understood as an approach to representation that relied less on faithfulness to visual reality than on creating an evocative mood, often through memory. Tonalist artists achieved a prevailing sense of quiet by depicting subjects at either end of the day, in soft light and with a delicate range of colors – thus, “tonal”. Landscapes dominated, but figurative works were not excluded. Overall, Tonalism encouraged contemplation.

Tonalism: Pathway from the Hudson River School to Modern Art is organized by the New York State Museum and the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art. The group of artists included in the exhibition is a representation of those who practiced Tonalism. The artists range from Frederick Kost on Long Island, to those working in Woodstock, including Birge Harrison, Eva Watson-Schütze, and Bolton Brown, to Alexander Helwig Wyant in Arkville and Keene Valley, to Walter Launt Palmer and others who had ties to Albany. The goal is to cast a wide net and consider Tonalism as a broader concept than heretofore presented.

The public is invited to attend a reception for the exhibition on Saturday, April 4 from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. The reception will begin with light refreshments at 1:00 p.m., followed by an exhibition tour led by senior historian and curator Karen Quinn at 2:00 p.m.

Photos of artwork from the exhibition are available on the Museum’s website.

The State Museum is a program of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located at 222 Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is closed on the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Admission is free. Further information about programs and events can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the Museum website.