This 1867 oil painting, “Niagara Falls, from the American Side” by Frederic Edwin Church, captures the raw power of nature.

When Romanticism crossed the Atlantic, America put its unique stamp on the movement.

In his final lecture on “Landscape and the Romantic Imagination,” James Reel, classical music director of Arizona Public Media, will discuss some of the philosophers, writers, and artists who shaped American thought and culture between 1820 and 1860.  The program begins at 2:30 p.m. Thursday (May 25) in the ASA Great Room.

With “Nature,” in 1836, Ralph Waldo Emerson laid out the principles of Transcendentalism.  Drawing on European ideas of the intrinsic goodness of the natural world and the corruption of human society, it held that spirituality is achieved through personal intuition rather than religious doctrine.  Two of his disciples included Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman, whose “Walden” and “Leaves of Grass” came out a year apart in 1854 and 1855.

Among the literary lights, James Fenimore Cooper, who wrote of frontier and Indian life, is considered the first true American novelist, and Washington Irving, the master of the American short story.  The “dark Romantics”—Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne—explored the supernatural and psychologically complex themes in poetry and fiction.

James Reel

For artists, the New World brought a fresh landscape, largely wild and unspoiled.  Painters such as Frederic Church, Thomas Cole, and Albert Bierstadt of the Hudson River School recorded that pristine beauty in American masterpieces.

There was no comparable school of composers, but William Henry Fry’s 1854 “Niagara Symphony,” derided by critics but loved by audiences, employed eleven tympani, snare drums, and a series of discordant chromatic chords to simulate the thunderous crash of falling water.

Written by Caroline Bates, Academy Village Volunteer

More Info on attending an event
Academy Village is an active-adult community located off Old Spanish Trail six miles southeast of Saguaro National Park East. Its residents support the Arizona Senior Academy, a non-profit charitable organization whose mission includes offering free concerts and lectures to the public.

These events are held in the Great Room of The ASA Building adjacent to the Academy Village Community Center. Due to the popularity of cultural events, non-residents who wish to ensure priority seating are advised to make reservations by email at or by phone at (520) 647-0980. To learn more about the Academy, go to

Parking for visitors is in the lot behind the Community Center. All parking spaces in front of the Academy building are reserved.

Landscape and the Romantic Imagination: Part 4 – May 2016