Tonalism: Pathway from the Hudson River School to Modern Art

February 15, 2020 to November 30, 2020
West Gallery

Tonalism has long been considered a conservative approach to painting, often discussed as the antithesis to Impressionism. But recent publications have begun to reconsider this late 19th-century movement as innovative in its approach to representation both conceptually and as realized, an approach that helped to lay the groundwork for Modernism and contemporary art. This exhibition will reposition Tonalism in this new context.

Organized by the New York State Museum and the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art in New Paltz, and following their institutional missions, this exhibition features Tonalism as practiced by painters and photographers with ties to New York. Although many were based in New York City, the work of artists across the state will be explored. Building on the renowned work of Tonalist trailblazers such as James A. McNeil Whistler and George Inness, the focus will be on mostly lesser-known masters of the movement in an effort to shed light on their contributions. They range from around the state, from Frederick Kost on Long Island, to Birge Harrison in Woodstock, to Alexander Helwig Wyant in Arkville and Keene Valley, to Walter Launt Palmer in Albany, and others. 

Many of the works included in this exhibition have been loaned by private collectors, offering viewers the chance to see works that are not in the public domain. Tonalism: Pathway from the Hudson River School to Modern Art showed at the Dorsky Museum from August 28 through December 8, 2019. Additional Tonalist works from the newly acquired Historic Woodstock Art Colony: Arthur A. Anderson Collection at the New York State Museum have been added to the installation here.

A public opening reception and gallery tour will be held on Saturday, April 4, 2020, from 1–3 p.m.


Tonalism Online

View this Exhibit Online!

Briefly on view at the Museum in 2020, the exhibition closed early due to Covid-19. The lenders generously agreed to allow these works to be exhibited online indefinitely, giving viewers the chance to explore the exhibition at their leisure.

Tonalism Brochure Cover

Tonalism Brochure

Download the exhibition brochure that includes in depth information about Tonalism along with highlights of featured New York State artists and their work.