Edmund C. Coates

(1816-1872)

Landscape, portrait, marine and history painter lived in New York City during his active period 1837-1872. Brooklyn and New York City directories from those years list him as Edward, Edmund C., E.C. Coates, and E.G. Coates. His paintings include landscapes of Canada and Italy although it is not known if the artist traveled to those countries or if other works inspired the scenes. He also painted in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and, listed as one of the Hudson River School painters, did numerous Hudson River Valley scenes such as Shipping on the Hudson River, 1855. His painting titled "Washington's Headquarters at Newburgh", 1867, depicted a popular scene among the Hudson River painters because it was George Washington's headquarters painted against the backdrop of Storm Mountain near the town of Newburgh.

Although he was known primarily as a Hudson River School painter, Coates often tinged his compositions with an old master sensibility, through the inclusion of Italianate landscape elements and mythological and religious themes.

The first American school of landscape painting developed in the mid-nineteenth century. It became known as the Hudson River School, because many of the artists painted in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York and the surrounding New England region. The Hudson River area provided artists with an unsettled wilderness that was uniquely American. Their scenes were romantic views of the landscape, including pastoral settings where humans and nature coexisted peacefully. Many of these views promoted the idea that nature was a healing place and a way that people could communicate with God, while other scenes showed the negative impact of development and technology on the American wilderness. Some painters traveled beyond the Hudson River Valley to explore the West and exotic areas such as Alaska and South America. A group of Hudson River School artists used a style that would become known as Luminism, which depicts meticulously detailed and clearly organized, tranquil land and seascapes with a strong emphasis on light. Portraiture was the most popular type of painting in America from colonial times well into the nineteenth century. Affluent sitters posed in their finest clothes against landscape backdrops or in well-appointed interiors to document their status in the New World. A market emerged for images of the young nation’s leaders, and George Washington became a popular subject for the portrait artist. Portraiture served a documentary purpose for early Americans.