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.
March Object of The Month: Japanese Teapot from Bell Tower
An original Japanese teapot used by Frederic Church as a final for the Crow's Nest, Collection Olana State Historic Site
This Japanese teapot once graced the very pinnacle of Church's home at Olana. The ultimate viewing platform from the main house at Olana is the Crow's Nest, at the top of the building's Bell Tower. The Crow's Nest offers 360-degree expansive views towards the Catskill Mountains to the west; New York City to the south; the upper Hudson Valley to the north; and east to the Berkshire Hills, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Church whimsically crowned each corner of the Crow's Nest with a beautiful Japanese teapot, complemented by a railing of vibrant green Chinese tiles.
Many visitors are familiar with Church's interest in Persian architecture, decorative arts and his inspirational trip to the Middle East, but are less aware that the artist also collected and displayed many objects from the Far East, including ceramics such as this teapot.
This original teapot remains intact and is now kept on view in the Butler's Pantry in the main house. Beautiful replicas of these teapots are now secured on the top of the Crow's Nest, with additional replicas stored to replace them should they be damaged by weather.
One of these teapot replicas is a highlight of a new display jointly created by Olana and the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, recently installed in one of the concourses of the Albany Airport as part of the Airport's ongoing Arts & Culture program. The exhibition features stunning images and unique materials from both sites, and includes information about the homes, collections, and current preservation efforts of each of these important artists' residences. The exhibition will remain up for the coming year and we invite our supporters to go and visit it, as well as the other exhibitions organized by the Arts & Culture program.
Photos: View of the Bell Tower photo by Rich Gromek, View of the Crow's Nest featuring replica teapots photo by Rich Gromek