This monumental view of the Hudson River Valley was painted from memory in the artist's London studio. Cropsey adopted a high vantage point, looking southeast toward the distant Hudson River and the flank of Storm King Mountain. A small stream leads from the foreground, where three hunters and their dogs gaze into the sunlight. All along the meandering tributary there are signs of man's peaceful coexistence with nature: a small log cabin, grazing sheep, children playing on a bridge, and cows standing placidly in the water. Here, man neither conquers nor is subservient to nature; both coexist harmoniously. In fact, the landscape is depicted as a ready arena for further agricultural expansion. While autumnal scenes traditionally are associated with the transience of life, Cropsey's painting is more a celebration of American nationalism. As a critic wrote in 1860, the picture represents "not the solemn wasting away of the year, but its joyful crowning festival."
The painting created a sensation among many British viewers who had never seen such a colorful panorama of fall foliage. Indeed, because the autumn in Britain customarily is far less colorful than in the United States, the artist decided to display specimens of North American leaves alongside his painting to persuade skeptical visitors that his rendition was botanically accurate.
lower center: Autumn, -on the Hudson River / J. F Cropsey / London 1860
Purchased from the artist 1862 by Thomas Slattery, London. Arthur Jocelyn Charles, 6th Earl of Arran [1868-1958]; (Earl of Arran sale, Sotheby's, London, 11 July 1951, no. 150); "Duke"; private collection; (John Nicholson Gallery, New York), by November 1959; purchased 15 October 1963 by NGA.
- Pall Mall, London, 1860, no cat.
- London Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, London, 1862, no. 2871.
- Art of the United States: 1670-1966, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1966, no. 57.
- Jasper F. Cropsey, 1823-1900: A Retrospective View of America's Painter of Autumn, University of Maryland Art Gallery, College Park, 1968, 26, 27, 30, 48, no. 19 (cat. by Peter Bermingham).
- In Memoriam, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1969, unnumbered checklist.
- Jasper F. Cropsey 1823-1900, The Cleveland Museum of Art; Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica; National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C., 1970-1971, no. 35, color repro. 57 (cat. by William S. Talbot).
- Presidential Inaugural luncheon, U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., 21 January 1985.
- American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1987-1988, 206-207, no cat. no. (entry by Carrie Rebora).
- Bilder aus der Neuen Welt: Amerikanische Malerei des 18. und 19. Jahrhundts., Orangerie des Schlosses Charlottenburg, Berlin, Germany; Kunsthaus Zurich, Switzerland, 1988-1989, no. 19 (cat. by Thomas W. Gaehtgens).
- Jasper Francis Cropsey's 'The Spirit of War' and 'The Spirit of Peace', National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1994-1995, brochure, no.3, repro.
- Scenes from a Century Past--Reflections of the Spirit: Vibrant Forces for Rebirth as We Enter the New Millennium, Newington-Cropsey Foundation, Hastings-on-Hudson, 2000, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- American Sublime: Landscape Painting in the United States 1820-1880, Tate Britain, London; Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2002, no. 27, repro.
- Cosmopolitan Art Journal (June 1859): 132.
- "Art Items." New York Daily Tribune. (12 May 1860).
- Bennet, W.C. "Cropsey's 'Autumn on the Hudson' [sonnet]." (London) Art Journal (July 1860): 336.
- Boston Evening Transcript (18 May 1860): 2.
- Home Journal (9 June 1860): 2.
- The Crayon (May 1860): 124.
- London Morning Post (6 May 1862).
- London Times (7 April 1862).
- Tuckerman 1867, 536-537.
- Sheldon, George Williams. American Painters. New York, 1879: 83-84.
- Sears, Clara Endicott. Highlights among the Hudson River Artists. Boston, 1947: 173-174.
- Bermingham, Peter. Jasper F. Cropsey: A Retrospective View of America's Painter of Autumn. Exh. cat. University of Maryland, College Park, 1968: 26-27.
- American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 48, repro.
- Talbot, William S. Jasper F. Cropsey 1823-1900. Exh. cat. National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C., 1970: 33-37, 86-87.
- Howat, John K. The Hudson River and Its Painters. New York, 1972: 144, color repro. no. 25.
- Moore, James C. "The Storm and the Harvest: The Image of Nature in Mid-Nineteenth Century American Landscape Painting." Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University, Bloomington, 1974: 49, 171-173.
- Talbot, William S. Jasper F. Cropsey, 1823-1900. New York, 1977: 154-159, 256-257, 415-417, 483-486.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 140, repro.
- Talbot, William S. "Indian Summer by Jasper F. Cropsey." Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 58 (1980): 153-155.
- Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980: 15, 96, repro.
- Williams, William James. A Heritage of American Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1981: color repro. 92-93, 116.
- Novak, Barbara. Nineteenth-Century American Painting. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. London, 1986: 13.
- Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 18, 110, 182, repro.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 155, repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 235, repro.
- Miller, Angela. The Empire of the Eye: Landscape Representation and American Cultural Politics, 1825-1875. Ithaca, New York, 1993: 160-161.
- Kelly, Franklin, with Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., Deborah Chotner, and John Davis. American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 118-122, color repro.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 314-315, no. 255, color repro.
The support is a coarse but tightly woven, plain-weave fabric that has been lined. A whitish ground was applied evenly in a very thin layer, over which paint was added in a variety of techniques. In most areas the artist laid thin washes of color, then painted into them or drew over them using a thicker paste. There are numerous bits of impasto, primarily in the foliage. Some have been flattened, probably as a result of a lining treatment that increased the prominence of the support's weave pattern. There are scattered small losses \rand scratches throughout the image. Discolored varnish \rwas removed and the painting was restored most recently in 1986.