Skip to Main Content

The Sixty-Sixth A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts: The Forest: America in the 1830s, Part 1: Herodotus among the Trees

Alexander Nemerov, department chair and Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities, Stanford University. In the six-part lecture series The Forest: America in the 1830s, Nemerov explores the Hudson River School painters and their contemporaries, focusing on what their art did and did not show of the teeming world around them. The forest serves as a metaphor for the unruly and wooded realms of lived experience to which art can only gesture. The lectures present a fundamentally new account of Thomas Cole (1801–1848), John Quidor (1801–1881), James Fenimore Cooper (1789–1851), and other artists and writers of that time. The first lecture, held on March 26, 2017, “Herodotus among the Trees,” considers the questions: How does life get into art? What were the definitions of life and of art in the United States in the 1830s? How might life and art have met and diverged there and then—for example, in two landscape paintings by Thomas Cole?