In this dramatic portrayal of the American wilderness, wind and rain ravage the landscape as lightning flashes in the distance. Cropsey’s dark colors and roughly handled paint create an ominous tone which emphasizes the overwhelming power of the storm. At the right, an Indian hunter crouches beside a tree and watches helplessly as the stag he just shot tumbles over the waterfall, reinforcing the theme of nature’s superiority over man.
The artist was a devout follower of Hudson River School founder Thomas Cole, whose poem Storm in the Catskills is believed to have inspired this painting. While often criticized for copying Cole’s style, Cropsey chose to render a close-up view of this scene, a departure from Cole’s more distant, romantic vistas. Cropsey’s familiarity with Frederic Church’s landscapes is also evident here; notice the similarity between the splintered tree in the foreground and Church’s Storm in the Mountains.
Credit Line: Text courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art.