LEARN: The Collections
Visitors touring beautiful Olana will see the paintings, sculpture and furnishings Frederic and Isabel Church acquired over the course of their lives, which surrounded them and their children, servants and guests in their daily life at Olana. The collection was described by a 19th century guest as, "a museum of fine arts rich in bronzes, paintings, sculptures and antique and artistic specimens from all over the world."
Today's visitor experience is remarkably unchanged, with the public encountering interiors that look as they did in the 1890s-- the virtually intact home of one of America's most important painters. The sheer richness and depth of the collections speak to Church's life-long interest in acquiring intriguing objects from around the world.The whole is an exemplary example of an early Aesthetic Movement interior.
Highlights of the collection include paintings by Frederic Church and fellow Hudson River School artists Martin Johnson Heade and Arthur Parton, and numerous works by his close friend sculptor Erastus Dow Palmer.
The eclectic assortment of furniture and art collected on his many travels abroad and purchased from the growing number of purveyors in New York City include, Middle Eastern carpets,
metalwork, ceramics and costumes; old master paintings; Mexican and colonial folk art; pre-Columbian art; and 19th century American and Oriental furniture.
April Object of The Month: Church's "Sunrise"
Frederic Edwin Church, "Sunrise," c. 1847, oil on off-white paper, 8 1/2 x 14 3/8 in., OL.1978.11, Collection Olana State Historic Site, NYSOPRHP.
This exquisite and early sketch by Church will soon be featured in the upcoming exhibition "Master Mentor Master: Thomas Cole and Frederic Church" opening at the end of this month at the Thomas Cole Historic Site. The exhibition provides an opportunity for visitors to see "Sunrise" on public view for the first time. The sketch is one of four artworks from the Olana collection being loaned for the exhibition, which opens April 30 and remains on display through November 2.
A young Frederic Church executed this sketch, possibly just after completion of his tutelage, with mentor Thomas Cole. The extraordinary rendering of the sky effects and magnificent use of color in this early work show an already masterful grasp of the medium. The deep yellow rays of sunlight peaking over the horizon provide a visual focal point, but the entire composition is filled with a vast array of color including yellows, reds and even greens - all balanced by the subtle greys of the clouds. This ability to capture at once both the specificity and grandeur of atmospheric phenomena would become a signature of Church's work, culminating in mature works such as "The After Glow" (1867).
Early works such as "Sunrise" and other works on view in the Cole House exhibition will illuminate the unique influence of Cole's teachings on Church's artistic evolution. It is also the first exhibition to explore one of the most influential teacher-student relationships in the history of American art - that between the founder of the Hudson River School of painting, Thomas Cole, and his most celebrated student and successor, Frederic Edwin Church.
The exhibition is curated by John Wilmerding, Sarofim Professor of American Art, Emeritus, at Princeton University and former Senior Curator and Deputy Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington. See www.thomascole.org for details.
"Master Mentor Master," provides a perfect complement to the upcoming exhibition at Olana this season, "All the Raj," which will explore the relationship between Church and one his own pupils, Lockwood de Forest. Come to both sites this season and witness three generations of Hudson River School artistic legacy.