SETH EASTMAN 1808-1875
Hudson River with a Distant View of West Point, 1834

(View of the Highlands from West Point)
Oil on canvas, 33
X 50" (83.82 X 127.00 cm.)
Signed, lower right
Museum purchase, 968-0-174

Seth Eastman is best known for his pictorial documentation of the Native American. A writer of 1848 considered Eastman "the best painter of Indian life the country has produced," further declaring him "a superior artist to [George] Catlin," another well-known artist who specialized in the subject. The National Academy of Design made Eastman an honorary amateur member, and Congress commissioned paintings from him to adorn committee rooms in the House of Representatives.
Eastman, a graduate of West Point Military Academy, pursued a successful career with the United States Army. After initial postings in Wisconsin and Minnesota, he was stationed at West Point from 1833 to 1840 as the assistant teacher of drawing. Eastman spent the rest of his career in the army, attaining the rank of colonel by the time of his retirement in 1863. Hudson River with a Distant View of West Point was painted while he was teaching at the Academy. During this time, Eastman published a treatise on topographical drawing advocating that scientific attention to detail be applied to landscape art. He advised that 'A knowledge of geology is of great assistance to the draughtsman, for if he understand[s] the nature of rocks, he can better represent them." Hudson River with a Distant View of West Point depicts the view looking north from West Point toward the Highlands of the Hudson River. The sloping mountain on the left is either Crow's Nest or Storm King. On the right are Breakneck Ridge and Bull Hill, and the low-lying peninsula in the shadows before them is known as Constitution Island. Pollepel Island is visible in the gap between the banks of the Hudson. Eastman's view was painted from an elevated vantage point southwest of the military academy, and some of the school's academic buildings appear as tiny white shapes at the far right. The river disappears downstream behind them.
While stationed at West Point, Eastman frequently exhibited work at the National Academy of Design in New York. Between 1836 and 1840 he exhibited seventeen paintings at the academy, nearly half of them landscapes depicting West Point and vicinity.4 Relatively few of Eastman's eastern landscapes have survived, making Hudson River with a Distant View of West Point a rarity within the artist's oeuvre. Despite their scarcity, his Hudson River landscapes establish him as an important predecessor of the Hudson River School, America7s first indigenous group of landscape painters.