Church: A Painter’s Pilgrimage
Detroit Institute of Arts
October 22, 2017 – January 15, 2018
Frederic E. Church, Syria by the Sea, 1873, oil on canvas 56×85 in., 10.11. Gift of Mrs. James F. Joy, Collection Detroit Institute of Arts.
Artist Frederic Church was the most popular and financially successful painter in mid-19th-century America, best known for his large paintings of wild places in North and South America, the North Atlantic and the Caribbean. But from the late 1860s until the late 1870s, many of his most important paintings represented ancient cities or buildings from his trip to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. While Church’s paintings of the New World subjects focused on nature, his Old World subjects explore human history. This exhibition brings together nearly all of Church’s most important paintings of the Middle East, Athens and Rome to explore what motivated this major shift in his artistic work. Read more.
Ordrupgaard Museum, Denmark.
March 10-July 2, 2017
Fritz Melbye, Walled Town on a Hill Above the Sea, date unknown, oil on canvas, 10 x 10 5/8 in., OL.1982.652, Collection Olana State Historic Site, NYSOPRHP
Is there a link between Danish Golden Age painting and French Impressionism? On the occasion of the centenary of the sale of the Danish West Indies, Ordrupgaard is highlighting the encounter between the Danish Golden Age painter Fritz Melbye and the later ‘father’ of French Impressionism, Camille Pissarro, on the island of St. Thomas. The exhibition Pissarro. A Meeting on St. Thomas presents new historical material that will radically challenge most people’s ideas of the birth of Impressionism. For more information click here.
The Center for Architecture – New York City
January 30-April 22, 2017
Coachman’s House Gallery
August 14-November 13, 2016
Frederic Joseph Church, Plan of Olana, September 1886, watercolor on paper, OL. 1984.39. Collection Olana State Historic Site, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
The historic 1886 Plan of Olana is largely accurate, yet it contains one mystery: a structure labeled “Summer House”. Summer houses were common in early American gardens and public landscapes, yet there is no documentary evidence about the style or form of this structure at Olana. Designers will present summer house concept sketches in response to Olana. This exhibition is organized by The Olana Partnership, in collaboration with the New York Chapters of The American Institute of Architects (AIANY) and the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA-NY).
For a details and bios click here.
Francisco Oller and His Transatlantic World
Brooklyn Museum of Art
October 2, 2015–January 3, 2016
Fritz Siegfried Georg Melbye (1826-1869), Entrance to the City of St. Domingo, Columbus “Tower,” 1864, oil on canvas, 8 1/2 x 14 1/4 in., OL.1980.1907, Collection Olana State Historic Site
Charles de Wolf Brownell (1822-1909), Royal Palm, 1862, oil on canvas, 14 3/8 x 10 3/8 in., OL.1981.30, Collection Olana State Historic Site
Olana has loaned two works from its collection to Impressionism and the Caribbean: Francisco Oller and His Transatlantic World on view at the Brooklyn Museum of Art October 2, 2015–January 3, 2016. This exhibition explores the painter Francisco Oller, who contributed greatly to the development of modern art in both Europe and the Caribbean and revolutionized the school of painting in his native Puerto Rico. Olana has loaned Entrance to the City of St. Domingo, Columbus “Tower,”(1864), a work by Fritz Melbye, who accompanied Frederic and Isabel Church on their 1865 trip to Jamaica. Charles de Wolf Brownell’s Royal Palm (1862), given to Frederic Church as a gift, has also been loaned to the exhibit.
Included in the exhibition is Frederic Church’s lovely painting Jamaica (1871), on loan from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (Hartford, CT). For more information about the exhibition and accompanying catalogue click here.
The Panama Canal at 100
The Mint Museum
November 1, 2014-February 1, 2015
“Fern Walk, Jamaica” by Frederic E. Church, c. July 7865, oil on paper mounted on canvas, 12 1/4 x 13 1/4 in., OL.1981.73, Collection Olana State Historic Site
Connecting the World: The Panama Canal at 100 opens in fall 2014, the centennial of the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, and brings together selected examples of the work of the three most important American artists to draw and paint the construction of the canal, printmaker Joseph Pennell and painters Alson Skinner Clark and Jonas Lie, for the first time. Providing a rich context for these works is a handful of paintings by nineteenth-century American artists including Frederic Church, Martin Johnson Heade, and Louis Remy Mignot, all of whom visited and painted in South America, as well as works by such American artists as Julien Alden Weir, Ernest Lawson, and George Bellows, who painted images of factories and industry in the popular styles of their day. Interspersed with the approximately 50 paintings and prints is a variety of ephemera—photographs, books, newspapers, and other period material—that address the broader public perception of the canal and its impact.
As 2014 marks the centennial of the opening of the canal it provides a perfect opportunity to both reconsider these historic works of art and to reflect upon the canal’s impact over the past one hundred years. Thus, in conjunction with the exhibition the Mint has commissioned a new short story by the award-winning author Anthony Doerr and a new work of art by renowned contemporary artist Mel Chin. These fresh perspectives on the canal and its legacy are particularly meaningful in light of the fact that an effort to significantly expand the canal is currently underway, and is tied to the development of many projects in the continental United States, such as the construction of an intermodal transportation hub at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.
Panama Canal at 100 is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue containing an essay by exhibition curator Jonathan Stuhlman, the new work of fiction by Doerr, and images relating to Chin’s commission along with an interview with the artist about the piece. For more information click here.
Frederic Church’s Landscape of Mount Desert and Mount Katahdin
Cleveland Museum of Art
October 5, 2014-January 25, 2015
Olana State Historic Site, Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery
June 9-October 27, 2013
Portland Museum of Art
June 30-September 30, 2012
“Sunset, Bar Harbor” by Frederic E. Church, c. September 1854, oil on paper mounted on canvas, 10 1/8 x 17 1/4 in., OL.1981.72, Collection Olana State Historic Site
Frederic Church was America’s most important painter during the middle years of the 19th century. While famous for his scenes of the Arctic, South America, and the Near East, his landscapes of Maine were central to his career for over four decades. This exhibition explored first his early mastery of the conventions of art history, the expressions of national history during his maturity, and finally the poignant reflections of personal history in his later years. Guest curated by John Wilmerding, the Christopher Binyon Sarofim Professor of American art, emeritus, at Princeton University.
Maine Sublime included 10 oil and 13 pencil sketches from the Olana collection that celebrate the glories of Maine scenery. Many were on public view for the first time, including the vibrant plein-air sketch Wood Interior near Mount Katahdin, c. 1877. Loans of 4 important works from the Portland Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC and private collections augmented the sketches from Olana. The early and spectacular Newport Mountain from Mount Desert, 1851 from the National Gallery of Art depicting nature’s more awesome character in the turbulent surf and looming mountain were displayed alongside the related sketch, also from the National Gallery of Art, Fog off Mount Desert, 1850.
The artist first journeyed to Maine in the summer of 1850 spending six weeks on Mount Desert exploring the coast, its rocky Islands, and peaceful harbors. He sketched the scenery which he described as “magnificent both land and seaward,” capturing the splendid sky effects in Sunset Bar Harbor, 1854. In 1852 he trekked inland focusing on the area of Mount Katahdin. Over the next decades Church continued to visit Maine capturing sensational sunsets, robust crashing waves, impressive peaks, and an abundance of wilderness.
Wilmerding’s analysis of the paintings inspired by Maine reveals Church as both a public and private artist. “The work done in Maine during the 1850s and early 1860s, primarily at Mount Desert, embodied sentiments of increasing national strife, in symbolic and suggestive ways, while the career of the later 1860s and 1870s was devoted more to his personal time in inland Maine around Mount Katahdin,” explains Wilmerding. Featured in the exhibition was Twilight, A Sketch, 1858 the study for Church’s great masterpiece Twilight in the Wilderness, 1860 (Cleveland Museum of Art), which reflects the tensions surrounding the impending Civil War. Mount Katahdin from Millinocket Camp, 1895 on loan from the Portland Museum was the artist’s last major Maine canvas and a birthday gift to his wife— a work of great personal significance that both enhanced the exhibition and directly related to the artist’s life at Olana.
The Maine material presented in the exhibition ranged from finished oil sketches that Church displayed in his home to pencil sketches and cartoons that he stored in portfolios and shared with friends, fellow artists and guests. A delightful pencil rendering of the newly married artist and his wife enjoying the bracing coastal winds on one of their first trips to Maine, gave visitors a glimpse of Church’s witty nature.
To read John Wilmerding’s scholarly article click here.
A full color exhibition catalog is available at the Olana Museum Shop.
Olana organized this traveling exhibition to highlight the Church paintings and sketches of Maine from the Olana Collection.
This exhibition is organized by The Olana Partnership and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
The organizers of “Maine Sublime: Frederic Edwin Church’s Landscapes of Mount Desert and Mount Katahdin” wish to acknowledge the generous early support received from
Susan Winokur and Paul Leach
The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation
This exhibition and the accompanying book were made possible by major grants from
The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, Inc.
The New York State Council on the Arts Museum Program
The Wyeth Foundation for American Art
Additional support has been provided by
Valerie and Brock Ganeles
The Olana Exhibition Fund
The Olana Partnership’s Jack Warner Fund for Creativity and Innovation
Gary Schiro and Robert Burns
Evelyn Trebilcock and Douglas Hammond
Barrie A. and Deedee Wigmore
Eli Wilner & Co., NYC
We are particularly grateful to Henry and Sharon Martin for their commitment and dedication to supporting the development of high quality catalogues in conjunction with Olana exhibitions.
Support for John Wilmerding’s lectures in conjunction with the exhibition at each venue was provided by CHRISTIE’S.
The Trustees and staff of The Olana Partnership wish to recognize the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo; New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey; Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation Ruth Pierpont; Regional Director, Taconic Region Linda Cooper; former Director of the Bureau of Historic Sites John Lovell; Acting Director of the Bureau of Historic Sites Mark Peckham; former Olana Site Manager Linda McLean, and Olana Site Manager Kimberly Flook.
A full color exhibition catalog is available at the Olana Museum Shop.
The Artist’s Residence As a Total Work of Art
Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany
November 20, 2013 – March 2, 2014
“The After Glow” by Frederic E. Church, November 1867, oil on canvas 31 1/4 x 48 3/4 in., OL.1981.48
Olana loaned five works to the exhibition In the Temple of the Self: The Artist’s Residence as a Total Work of Art presented by the Museum Villa Stuck, Munich. Olana is one of twenty artist homes highlighted in the exhibition and one of only three representing the United States. The artist’s homes were chosen as the supreme examples of the ideas, styles and eras they represent from 1800 to 1948; and because the residences rank among their creators’ most important works. Read more.
Frederic Church and the Landscape Oil Sketch
Scottish National Gallery
May 11-September 8, 2013
National Gallery London
February 6-April 28, 2013
“Obersee” by Frederic E. Church, Germany, July 1868, Collection Olana State Historic Site, NYSOPRHP
Olana, the home and artist-designed landscape of nineteenth-century Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), loaned thirteen works from its collection for the exhibition Through American Eyes: Frederic Church and the Landscape Oil Sketch, which was on view at the National Gallery, London, from February 6 through April 28, 2013. The selection from Olana included work never before exhibited. “Working with the National Gallery and the Terra Foundation has provided us with a wonderful opportunity to share Olana’s collection with an international audience,” remarked Sara Johns Griffen, President of The Olana Partnership.
Majestic scenes and striking coloration dramatize the works displayed in the exhibition which explored the remarkably fresh and spontaneous oil sketches made by Frederic Church throughout his career. Christopher Riopelle, Curator of Post- 1800 Paintings at the National Gallery and co-curator of the exhibition, further explained that “The National Gallery is a centre for the study of the European landscape oil sketch. Church is the leading American exponent of the sketch. The opportunity to show his works here introduces the New World into the equation and broadens our understanding of this vital and immediate art form.”
Featured in the exhibition were works which captured the spectacular views from Church’s own home overlooked the Hudson River in Upstate New York including Winter Twilight from Olana (about 1871-2) and Clouds over Olana (1872). These sketches, which are rarely on public view, reflected Church’s passion for his property and the encircling views. He explored the effects of light, using his own daily surroundings as muse. The eminent painter spent four decades designing Olana as an integrated environment embracing architecture, art, landscape, and conservation ideals.
Considered one of the most important artistic residences in the United States, Olana is a 250-acre artist-designed landscape with a Persian-inspired house at its summit, embracing unrivaled panoramic views of the vast Hudson Valley. Andrew Wilton, Former Keeper and Senior Research fellow at Tate Britain, writes in the accompanying exhibition catalogue: “From the house and its land he continued to sketch, producing records of the eternally changing Hudson scenery… Whatever the season, he produced them in large quantities, reflecting his love of the place and his untiring devotion to the recording of natural phenomena. As a group they are impressive—and indeed as moving—as any of his grander works.”
Church’s oil sketches revealed the freshness of his work and the spontaneity of his style as he captured scenes out of doors, some of which informed his compositions later in the studio. While Church is regarded as one of the most ambitious of the Hudson River School landscape painters, his works also document his voracious appetite for travel to locations as distant as Ecuador, Distant View of the Sangay Volcano, Ecuador (1857); Jordan, Ed Deir, Petra (1868); Jamaica, Ridges in the Blue Mountains, Jamaica (1865); Germany, Königssee, Bavaria (1868); and the waters off Labrador where he studied icebergs.
“From the cloud studies Church painted near Olana to the sketches of volcanoes, icebergs, and forests produced during the artist’s endless travels, the oil sketches in this exhibition function as both evidence of an artist’s careful process and as fully developed works of art,” said Katherine Bourguignon, of the Terra Foundation and co-curator of the exhibition.
This exhibition, the first to examine Church’s oil sketch achievement in depth on the other side of the Atlantic, was organized with and through major support from the Terra Foundation for American Art. Katherine Bourguignon asserted, “Frederic Church in London meets all the goals of the Terra Foundation – a great artist, international audiences, and true dialogue about American art.” The show united some thirty oil sketches and also included numerous loans from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, New York. Bourguignon explained that “Frederic Church produced magnificent oil sketches throughout his lifetime yet these works remain little known outside the United States. This focused exhibition provides the opportunity to introduce audiences in London and Edinburgh to Church, and we anticipate a very positive response.”
Also included in the exhibition from Olana’s collection is Church’s Horseshoe Falls and Table Rock (December 1856–January 1857), a preparatory sketch for the completed painting Niagara Falls, from the American Side (1867), an impressive canvas on loan from the National Galleries of Scotland. Pairing the display of these two works illustrated the artistic journey from small sketch to large-scale oil painting. “The works from Olana represent both milestones in Church’s career and personal memories; many of the sketches were displayed in the house for his own enjoyment and for visitors and friends to admire. Today Olana is a place for visitors to experience his paintings, his collection, the house and landscape he designed and the views that inspired him,” commented Olana Curator Evelyn Trebilcock.
Landscapes by Frederic Edwin Church
“Clouds over Olana” by Frederic Edwin Church, August 1872, oil on off-white paper, 8 11/16 x 12 1/8 in., OL.1976.1, Collection Olana State Historic Site, NYS OPRHP
Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) was probably the most renowned American artist of the Civil War era. Trained by Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of landscape painters, and stimulated by the writings of the famed explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, Church early demonstrated immense talent and global curiosity. He traveled extensively, and in his New York City studio painted monumental pictures of subjects in North and South America, the sub-Arctic, Europe, and the Near East. From the late 1850s to the 1870s, he displayed his most ambitious canvases as quasi-theatrical events, drawing thousands of people in America and Great Britain to his exhibitions, and marketing many of his works in fine engravings and lithographs.
Church amassed wealth sufficient to design and build a large estate, called Olana, in upstate New York for himself and his family, and his prominence was such that in 1870 he was both elected a founding trustee of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and appointed to the Board of the New York City Parks Commission. Though his reputation subsequently faded, Church and his art enjoyed an enthusiastic revival in the second half of the twentieth century. His works now enhance the collections of museums throughout the United States and in Europe, and have been the subject of many exhibitions.
As striking in their way as any of Church’s major paintings are his small oil studies and sketches, many executed wholly or partly in the field and several in the studio as designs for the major works. During his residence at Olana, Church framed many of those pictures, including a few large paintings, expressly for presentation in his home, and over a hundred others remain preserved there. Treasures from Olana represents a small selection of the finest of Church’s sketches and studies from the house—most of them he is known to have displayed on its walls—as well as Olana’s most important large painting, El Khasné, Petra. In 1875 he made El Khasné a gift to his wife, Isabel, and installed it over the fireplace in the Sitting Room.
See the Treasures exhibition on Facebook, click here.
Olana organized this traveling exhibition of Olana’s masterpieces which toured 6 venues from June 2005 through June 2007.