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History of "Dawn–Storm King" Painting

By Nicholas A. Robinson

In “Dawn-Storm King” (1989), pictured above, John Hulsey celebrates the mountain which inspired the birth of modern environmental law, in Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference v. Federal Power Commission, 354 F.2d 608 (2d Cir. 1965). His original water color is exhibited each year by the law school that won the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition, and prints of the painting then are given to the school and winning students for inclusion in their permanent collection of art works and the law. In 1988, when Professors Jeff Miller and Nick Robinson contemplated what sort of award to select for the new Moot Court, both sought a painting of Storm King Mountain. The early 19th century nature conservation movement had its roots in the Hudson School of painters, and so the birth of environmental law owes a debt to artists. Art, like law, is a living tradition, so rather than select an historic painting, of which the Hudson Highlands boasts many, Jeff and Nick commissioned John Hulsey to paint Storm King anew. Hulsey was then in residence in Garrison, New York, painting how light transfuses the hydrologic cycle and infuses the waters and skies of the Hudson River Valley.

John Hulsey’s painting is a meditation for us all. We never know in advance which of the advocates in the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition will prevail. More fundamentally, the jury is still out as to whether the remedial ends of environmental law will succeed in shaping a sustainable society. Students entering environmental law face the same fork in the road to the river that John Hulsey’s painting represents. The first rays of the morning sun, gracing the peak of Storm King, offer hope, but the river is wide and the choices uncertain. When Jeff and Nick first saw “Storm King at Dawn” they felt the joy a midwife must feel in delivering a healthy child. Both have each purchased several of John Hulsey’s paintings of the Hudson. Hulsey’s artistry has spread throughout the environmental law community nationally.

John Hulsey’s work keeps alive images that John Muir once captured in words: “This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”

To learn more about John Hulsey’s remarkable career as an accomplished artist, author and teacher working professionally for the 25 years since painting “Dawn–Storm King,” visit www.hulseytrustystudios.com. He is the recipient of numerous awards and writes about painting for national art magazines, including Watercolor Magazine and American Artist Magazine. Fall 2004 Watercolor Magazine features his article, "In the Footsteps of Cezanne - A Watercolor Workshop in Provence". He has been selected as a "Master Painter of the United States" by International Artist Magazine where his work was previously chosen to be included in the top ten of their international landscape painting competition. Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine profiled Mr. Hulsey in 2006 in the article "John Hulsey - Passion and Mystery". He was awarded residencies at Yosemite, Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Constance Berdan Sherman, artist and faculty member of the State University of New York, wrote this about John Hulsey:

"After many years of living the landscape, so to speak, John has developed consummate skill in presenting its aspects on paper or canvas, and his generosity in imparting these skills in workshops and articles is widely known. Far beyond this, the scope of his gift to us in these works is difficult to describe. He seems to be not so much painting a picture for us as giving us the landscape in an almost literal sense. We are at the point of observation, not excluded by a frame nor witnesses to an event. We participate in the landscape, witnessing what we may always have known but rarely call to conscious thought. We know how those small waves break on the shore, how the sand shines and reflects for an instant, how the luster departs as the water sinks in. We have seen those patches of sunlight and shadow moving over the hills, and he reminds us that we know them. We know how those small rivers glow as they wind out in the sunset, although we may have forgotten in the traffic of living. John's paintings represent, re-present, gives us back our presence in the landscape and our feeling of existing in it under the sky. This is a grand gift in all senses. We need to be reminded occasionally how the light embraces, and then moves on. There is some sort of magic in capturing the instant with this degree of perception."