Tag Archives: Thomas Cole National Historic Site

Art Historian Barbara Novak Being Honored Sunday

Barbara NovakBarbara Novak is one of America’s premier art historians.  Breaking into the world of American art history in the 1950s, when few professors taught the topic, Dr. Novak spent the next 40 years creating a foundation for the study of American art history through her seminal books and teaching.

Now the Helen Goodhart Altschul Professor of Art History Emerita at Barnard College and Columbia University, Novak has inspired generations of students to pursue careers in academic and museum life. Six speakers from a range of fields will offer personal stories of the wide sweep of Dr. Novak’s influence as a scholar and mentor. Dr. Novak will offer her remarks at the end of the event. Continue reading

The Immigrant Thomas Cole and NY State Tourism

View of Fort Putnam (Thomas Cole)Thomas Cole (1801-1848) , English immigrant, is regarded as a father of the Hudson River School, the first national art expression of the American identity in the post-War of 1812 period. It was a time when we no longer had to look over our shoulder at what England was doing and could begin to think of ourselves as having a manifest destiny. Cole also was very much part of the birth of tourism which occurred in the Hudson Valley and points north and west. Continue reading

Call to Artists: Hudson River School Art Trail


To celebrate the many talented artists who continue to be inspired by the landscapes along the Hudson River School Art Trail, the Thomas Cole Historic Site has issued a “call to artists” to submit a new postcard-sized artwork for an exhibition and sale entitled “Postcards from the Trail” that will take place on Sunday September 23, 2012.

A preview will benefit the Greene County Council on the Arts on the Saturday before. Artworks may depict any one of the 22 magnificent views that are now part of the Hudson River School Art Trail, a series of driving and hiking routes to the places that inspired the great landscape paintings of the 19th century. Hurry! The deadline for submissions is August 31st. For information about the Saturday preview, contact the GCCA at 518-943-3400.

Artists can get the details and entry instructions online.

Lecture on Thomas Coles New Studio Sunday

In 1974, an Italianate building that Thomas Cole had designed and used as his painting studio in the mid-19th century was demolished. It had fallen into disrepair and the art movement that Thomas Cole had founded, the Hudson River School, had fallen out of favor. Over the years, the site was overcome with trees and shrubs, and the exact location of the former building was lost.

The site is now part of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, and the building is in the process of being revived. This Sunday, April 15 at 2 pm, the art history professor from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, Julie Levin Caro, will be at the Thomas Cole site to speak about this piece of history – the building that Cole designed as his “dream studio”.

The talk is the last event in the series of Sunday Salon lectures, which take place once per month from January through April at the home of Thomas Cole, where the Hudson River School began. Tickets are $8 per person, or $6 for members, and admission is first-come-first-served.

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Thomas Cole Celebrates 10 Years, Makes Plans

Ten years ago the Thomas Cole National Historic Site opened its doors with no endowment, no government operating funds, and no paid staff. Thanks to members, volunteers, donors, scholars, trustees, staff, interns, advisors and fans the birthplace of the Hudson River School is still inspiring us today.

Over the next ten years Historic Site staff hope to see Thomas Cole’s “New Studio” rebuilt in the exact spot where it stood for 128 years – a building that he himself designed and the interior rooms of the 1815 “Main House” restored.

On Sundays at 2 pm once per month Thomas Cole State Historic Site offers a popular Sunday Salon series of lectures. Here are the first two:

January 15
The Hunt for Thomas Cole’s Lost, Last, Unfinished Series
In the late 1980s, a legendary New York art dealer acquired an oil study for one of five paintings in Cole’s monumental series, The Cross and the World. Learning that the series – still on Cole’s easel at the time of his death – had vanished from sight in the 1870s, the dealer sent Christine I. Oaklander out to hunt them down. Dr. Oaklander will discuss the history and iconography of Cole’s last, lost series and give us a “behind the scenes” glimpse of her quest.

February 12
Thomas Cole in Love
In 1825, young Thomas Cole stepped out of the Catskills autumn with a body of work so exceptional that it kicked America’s drowsy cultural ambitions into a new state of excitement. Join Kevin Sharp, Director of the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, as he explores Cole’s use of Romantic imagery from English poets such as Byron and Coleridge to create dramatic works that stood in stark contrast to the gentle landscape images that had come before.

Thomas Cole Historic Site Community Day

It has been ten years since the Thomas Cole National Historic Site opened its doors, and they have a great many milestones to celebrate, so they are opening their doors on Sunday, September 25, from 1-4 pm for a Community Day, featuring a new exhibition focusing on the past decade. Admission is free.

In the ten years since the 2001 opening, over 60,000 people have visited the historic site and attendance is now 400% higher than it was in the first year. Once near ruin, the house and grounds now provide an evocative environment where visitors can learn about the founder of the Hudson River School of art.

Hudson River School Hikes Offered

Thomas Cole National Historic Site is offering a third season of guided hikes to places that inspired Thomas Cole and fellow artists of the Hudson River School. Hikers will see the views that appear in some of the most beloved landscape paintings of the 19th-century, and hear stories that bring their history to life. The hikes range from easy walks to moderately vigorous climbs. Each hike is limited to twelve people, so sign up soon to be sure to reserve your place. The next hike is Saturday June 18- all hikes depart from the Thomas Cole Historic Site at 9am.

Hikes designated as “Easy” are approximately two hours in length. Those designated as “Moderate” are closer to four hours. Each of the guided hikes includes a copy of the Hudson River School Art Trail Guidebook and a guided tour of the Thomas Cole Historic Site at the end of the hike. The total price per person: $16, or $12 for members.

2011 Hike Schedule

JUNE 18 Sunset Rock and the Catskill Mt House (moderate)

JULY 16 Kaaterskill Falls and Catskill Mt House (moderate)

AUGUST 13 Catskill Mt. House and North-South Lake (easy)

SEPTEMBER 10 Kaaterskill Falls and Catskill Mt House (moderate)

OCTOBER 15 Sunset Rock and Catskill Mt House (moderate)

More about the hikes is available online [pdf].

Illustrations: Thomas Cole, The Clove, Catskills, 1827 (New Britain Museum of American Art), and the same view today. Photo by Francis Driscoll.

New Exhibit: African-American Landscape PainterRobert Duncanson

On May 1, 2011, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site opens Robert S. Duncanson: The Spiritual Striving of the Freedman’s Son, the first exhibition featuring the work of the nineteenth-century African-American landscape painter Robert S. Duncanson in many years, and, the first exhibition of his work to appear on the east coast, even in his lifetime. The exhibition will bring the work of this Ohio artist to the home of Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School and major influence on Duncanson.

Robert S. Duncanson was the first American landscape painter of African descent to gain international renown and occupies a critical position in the history of art. Widely celebrated for his landscape paintings, Duncanson began his career in the family trades of house painting and carpentry, before teaching himself art by painting portraits, genre scenes, and still-lifes. His success is remarkable as a “free colored person” who descended from generations of mulatto tradesmen, to graduate from skilled trades and participate in the Anglo-American art community.

Duncanson’s turn to landscape as his subject was influenced by Thomas Cole in the late 1840s. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, then the largest and most prosperous city in the western United States, Duncanson became the cornerstone of the Ohio River Valley regional landscape painting school and, according to the Cincinnati Gazette declared that he “enjoyed the enviable reputation of being the best landscape painter in the West.”

Duncanson achieved his artistic success despite the oppressive restrictions that Anglo-American society placed on him as an African-American, a “free colored person.” His paintings earned him international attention with especially high esteem bestowed on him by the art press in Canada and England. Canadians acknowledged Duncanson’s seminal role as “one of the earliest of our professional cultivators of the fine arts.” And, the critics of the London Art Journal praised him as possessing “the skill of a master,” whose paintings “may compete with any of the modern British school.”

Duncanson adopted the style and metaphors of east coast landscape painting that depicted the “natural paradise” of the New World as a romantic symbol for the European settlers’ perceived covenant with God. But in so doing he also appropriated the art of landscape painting–both in subject and content–for African-American culture. In some of his paintings he subtly expressed the perspective of an African-American through his works.

A careful reading of his landscapes, reveals how Duncanson expressed his particular perspective. The grandson of a freedman, Duncanson’s artistic ambitions and the content of his paintings epitomize W.E.B. Du Bois’ statement that “the spiritual striving of the freedmen’s son is the travail of souls.”

Robert S. Duncanson: The Spiritual Striving of the Freeman’s Son is curated by Joseph D. Ketner. Ketner is the Henry and Lois Foster Chair in Contemporary Art and the Distinguished Curator-in-Residence at Emerson College in Boston. He is the author of a definitive book about the artist, The Emergence of the African-American Artist: Robert S. Duncanson 1821-1872. The catalogue for this exhibition will contain an essay by Ketner including new information on the artist and color illustrations of many new paintings discovered over the past fifteen years.

“We are honored to have Joseph Ketner, the authority on this fascinating Hudson River School artist, curate our 8th annual exhibition,” said Elizabeth Jacks, Executive Director of the Thomas Cole Site. “The artist’s work, which can be found in the permanent collections of major museums across the country, stands alone in its beauty. What makes this exhibition even more powerful, however, is the fact that Duncanson achieved his success under the oppressive conditions of being a ‘free colored person’ in antebellum United States.”

Robert S. Duncanson: The Spiritual Striving of the Freeman’s Son is on-view through October 30, 2011.

This exhibition is the 8th annual presentation of 19th Century landscape paintings at the Thomas Cole site, fostering a discussion of the influence of Thomas Cole on American culture through a generation of artists known as the Hudson River School. The Thomas Cole Historic Site is located at 218 Spring Street in Catskill, New York. For information call 518-943-7465 or visit www.thomascole.org.

Illustration: Robert S. Duncanson’s Times Temple, 1854. 34 x 59 inches, Oil on Canvas. Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

Fort Ticonderoga Receives Art Exhibit Grant

Fort Ticonderoga has been awarded a grant in the amount of $3,000 by The Felicia Fund, Inc. of Providence, Rhode Island. The funds will support the upcoming exhibit, The Art of War: Ticonderoga as Experienced through the Eyes of America’s Great Artists exhibit. The new exhibit, scheduled to open in May 2011, will feature fifty works from Fort Ticonderoga’s extensive art collection together for the first time in a single exhibition. Included will be important American works by Thomas Davies, Thomas Cole, and Daniel Huntington.

The funding from The Felicia Fund supports the research, construction, and installation of the exhibit. The exhibit will use the artwork to explore human interaction at the Fort from the 18th century through the early 20th century. Fort Ticonderoga helped give birth to the Hudson River School of American art with Thomas Cole’s pivotal 1826 work, Gelyna, View Near Ticonderoga, the museum’s most important 19th-century masterpiece to be featured in the exhibit.

Beth Hill, Executive Director, said the generous grant provided by The Felicia Fund will “utilize the museum’s art collection to engage visitors with the role art played in memorializing the events that took place at Fort Ticonderoga and to encourage participatory activities that make the visitor experience part of the Fort’s continued legacy.”

The exhibit is being developed through collaboration with Winterthur Museum Graduate Program of the University of Delaware.

Christopher Fox, Fort Ticonderoga’s Curator of Collections, said the exhibit “will help the Fort reach new audiences by presenting its magnificent art collections in an exciting new format.”

The Art of War will be exhibited at Fort Ticonderoga in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center from May 20th through October 20th, 2011.

Multi-interdisciplinary art-themed educational programs developed with this exhibit will provide new opportunities for students and families to experience Fort Ticonderoga’s history and its 2000 acre campus.

Illustration: Thomas Cole’s “Gelyna, View Near Ticonderoga” (1826), courtesy Fort Ticonderoga.

The Masculinity of Antebellum Landscape Painters

As one who hobnobbed in elite cultural circles but also worked with his hands and roughed it in the woods and mountains, was the antebellum American landscape painter to be a gentleman or an undomesticated wild man, a James Fenimore Cooper or a Davy Crockett? Join Dr. Sarah Burns, Ruth N. Halls Professor of Fine Arts at Indiana University, as she examines the ways in which Hudson River School painters attempted to reckon with the problematic aura of femininity that clung to the image of the artist at that time. The lecture, “Outdoor Men: Manliness, Masculinity, and the Antebellum Landscape Painter,” will be held on Sunday October 10 is at 2pm at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill. Admission is $7 per person, or $5 for members, and is first-come-first-served.

Illustration: Asher Durand, Kindred Spirits (detail), 1849. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art