The same beauty that lured travelers attracted artists, whose paintings in turn inspired others to visit the River. These painters turned to the Hudson as an embodiment of the Romantic philosophy of Rousseau and other Europeans. "They celebrated nature's grandeur in both its beautiful and its savage aspect, especially the vast, pristine wilderness. These artists associated unspoiled nature with virtue...[they held that] nature was God's finest work." (The Hudson River Highlands, Dunwell, 1991, p. 51). The Hudson River School of painters was born, and included Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, Stanford Gifford, Jasper Cropsey and Frederic Church, among others. They all had homes along the River, since at that time, "residing and painting in the Hudson Valley was considered essential to art education...." (The Hudson River Highlands, Dunwell, 1991, p. 53-54). The Hudson River School had its heyday between 1825 and 1875.
The works of the Hudson River School painters can be viewed at the New York Historical Society in New York City, The Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, the Albany Institute of History and Art and the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie. In addition, Fredrick Church's home, Olana, is open to visitors as a State Historic Site. It is located just south of the town of Hudson.
The painters' praise of nature and interest in the Hudson was shared by the writers of the time. In fact, the writers' captivation with the River's wild beauty predates the painters' and helped to pave the way for it. The Knickerbocker writers, named after Washington Irving's fictional account, A History of New York by Deidrich Knickerbocker, began to write in the first decade of the 1800's. The group included Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, and James Fennimore Cooper. Irving endowed the mythology of the Hudson Valley with The Legend of Sleep Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library on 42nd Street, is named for the author of Thanatopsis. Fennimore brought the upper Hudson Valley to life with The Last of the Mohicans and other novels (together known as The Leatherstocking Tales). "The work of Irving, Cooper, and other Knickerbockers cast a spell of history and legend which the public would not soon forget. No less important was their contribution to national thought about nature's spiritual value. Like the Hudson River School artists, the Knickerbockers were druids at heart." (The Hudson River Highlands, Dunwell, 1991, p. 61).