The Hudson River SchoolThe Hudson River School, led by Thomas Cole (1801–1848), was neither a school nor limited to the Hudson River. American artists, striving to discover something distinctly American in the early days of the nation, turned to the vast, unspoiled landscape of North America for inspiration. Centered in the Hudson River Valley and spreading throughout New England, the Hudson River School painters (influenced by literary movements of the 1830s through 1850s) saw their country as a Garden of Eden and felt religious significance in the contemplation of nature. Cole and others of the movement, such as Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Church, were truly the first conservationists, foreseeing that the rapid progress of the nation endangered the virgin landscape that made America so unique. Hudson River School paintings were created to praise the power of nature, yet, at the same time, to show Americans how pristine their land was, and that it was up to these new Americans to protect it. Most Hudson River School painters revered the American Indians for their ability to live in harmony with nature and many paintings of the time depict Indians living in the rugged splendor of the nation.