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.
May Object of The Month: Sunset, Bar Harbor
Frederic Edwin Church, Sunset Bar Harbor, 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
Olana’s latest exhibition Maine Sublime opens Sunday June 9th and features this beautiful and dramatic oil study Sunset, Bar Harbor (1854). Maine Sublime explores Frederic Church’s many landscapes of Mount Desert Island and Mount Katahdin, including several studies and drawings on public view for the very first time. Guest curator John Wilmerding provides the essay for the accompanying color catalog. Truly a highlight of the exhibition, Sunset, Bar Harbor serves as the catalog’s cover image.
Wilmerding poetically describes the colors of this Mount Desert sunset as “pyrotechnics of intense, reds, yellows, and lavenders.” Church made a quick pencil study of the sunset on site (also featured in the exhibition), and he too remarked on this explosive meteorological display, taking plentiful and vivid notes on the sunset’s many colors. He writes of one passage, “Duller blue as if in shadow… green gold brilliant… brilliant… dark to blackness… splendid.” After recording these observations out of doors, Church likely returned to his Maine lodgings, sketch and annotations in hand, where he would use these impressions to create an oil image in the following days.
The expansive sky set ablaze with color contrasts the land silhouetted in shadow. Two small suggestions of boats are the only indication of a human presence in the painting. Bands of clouds stretch outwards and swell upwards. These elements lend the image enigmatic and contemplative qualities. Although absent of an overt allegorical message, Church’s apparitional image finds divinity in the natural landscape.
Maine Sublime will be on view in Olana’s Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery from June 9th through October 27th. Special gallery-only tours will be available Saturdays June 15th through October 26th on the hour 11:00 am until 4:00 pm. To make a reservation, call 518.828.0135. Lovers of this painting in particular can purchase note cards and magnets featuring the image in Olana’s Museum Shop. John Wilmerding’s fantastic exhibition catalog will also be available for purchase. Proceeds will benefit Olana.
Submitted by Christopher T. Richards
Curatorial Assistant, Olana