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Why does Red Dead Redemption 2 look so much like these paintings?

Learn more about the art inspiration for Rockstar’s Western epic

Red Dead Redemption 2’s open world is a beautiful place, rendered with care and exquisite attention to detail. But where does Rockstar draw its inspiration? According to its art director, the developers didn’t look to specific paintings (or movies, for that matter).

So why does the game look so much like this 19th-century style of American landscape painting?

It turns out that if you look at the history of this artistic movement, known as the Hudson River School, you start to see exactly why this is. Which is what the video above is all about.

Red Dead Redemption 2 can’t avoid a connection to these paintings because it can’t avoid its connections to the cultural history that created the western genre. Or as Wendy Ikemoto, associate curator at the New-York Historical Society, put it in our video, art is not “a passive reflection or document of history, but it is, rather, an agent of history.”