Frederic Edwin Church’s Views from Olana
Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery
May 23 – October 12, 2009
“Winter Sunset from Olana: by Frederic Edwin Church, c. 1871-72, oil on buff academy board 8 ½ x 13 in., OL.1976.13, Collection Olana State Historic Site, NYS OPRHP
The site is the result of a careful study of the river-banks, and commands so many views of varied beauty, that all the glories of the Hudson may be said to circle it. – H. W. French, Art and Artists in Connecticut, 1879.
In 1609, Henry Hudson sailed up the river that now bears his name. This exhibition marked the Quadricentennial of his discovery by highlighting Frederic Church’s sketches of the prospect from his hilltop home overlooking the river.
Church made his first sketch of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains from Red Hill – the south end of the property that became Olana – in 1845, on a sketching expedition suggested by his teacher Thomas Cole. Returning to the Valley in 1860 as the nation’s most famous and best-paid artist, Church settled on a farm on the lower slope of the Sienghenbergh, securing for himself and his new wife a splendid vantage point for studying, sketching, and painting the river. Church continued to add land to his property, attaining new and varied vistas of the river. He crowned the estate with a Persian inspired house designed to frame splendid views of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains.
Church never tired of his views of the river, documenting his passion for the Hudson in paintings, oil sketches, and drawings. From Olana, he observed the transformations wrought by the changing seasons, weather, and light, capturing chilly winter snows, brilliant sunsets, and passing storms in sketches executed with a few brush strokes or autumn colors and clear winter light in more finished easel paintings. Often Church was so pleased with the results that he mounted and framed sketches for display in his home. At other times they remained as personal references in the many portfolios of sketches the artist kept for his own private viewing and remembrance.
This inaugural exhibition of the Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery featured a full-color, hardcover catalogue published by Cornell University Press and The Olana Partnership, with an essay by curator Evelyn Trebilcock and associate curator Valerie Balint, an introduction by Kenneth John Myers, Curator of American Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and a forward by John K. Howat, Church scholar and former Lawrence A. Fleischman Chairman of the Departments of American Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
We thank the following for their help with this exhibition: New York State Governor David A. Paterson; New York State O‹ce of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Carol Ash; Director of New York State Parks Taconic Region Jayne McLaughlin; and at Olana State Historic Site, Site Manager Linda McLean and Interpretive Programs Assistant Carri Manchester. We are also grateful to The Olana Partnership staff members: Curator Evelyn Trebilcock; Associate Curator Valerie Balint; Librarian/Archivist Ida Brier; Curatorial Intern Alyson Mazzone; President Sara Griffen; Vice President for Development Robert Burns; Director of Administration and Public Affairs Nelson Sterner; and Executive Assistant Mary Curran.
For providing their thoughts on painters in the Hudson Valley, we thank John K. Howat for his lovely foreword and Kenneth Myers for his thoughtful introduction.
For managing the loan and preparing the paintings, photographs, and printed material for display and photographic materials for this publication, we are grateful to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Peebles Island Resource Center: Former Director James Gold; Acting Director John Lovell; Collections Manager Anne Ricard Cassidy and her staff Erin Czernecki, Ronna Dixson, and Mary Zaremski; Curators Robin Campbell and Susan Walker; Paper Conservator Michele Phillips; Frames Conservator Eric Price; and Paintings Conservator Joyce Zucker.
The catalogue, which will serve to bring the story of Olana and Church’s view of the Hudson Valley to new audiences long after the exhibition closes, would not have been possible without early support from Henry and Sharon Martin; a grant from Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund; and the guidance of Ed Marquand and his staff at Marquand Books. For their continued support of Olana publications we are grateful to Cornell University Press, especially John Ackerman and his staff. For supporting images we thank: Allison Munsell at the Albany Institute of History and Art; Selina Bartlett at Allen Memorial Art Gallery, Oberlin College; Melissa McCready at the Baltimore Museum of Art; Trevor R. Weight at Brigham Young University Museum of Art; Patricia King at Colby College Museum of Art; Jill Bloomer at the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution; Ila Furman at the Corcoran Gallery of Art; Elizabeth Weinman at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; Helena Grubesic at Debra Force Fine Art; Sylvia Inwood at the Detroit Institute of Arts; Marshall Field; Joel Garzoli at Garzoli Gallery; Colleen K. Zorn at A. J. Kollar Fine Paintings; Jamieson Bunn at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Clara Pyo at The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Joanna Hanna at Springfield Museums; and Charles Hilburn at The Westervelt Company. For the = contemporary images of Olana included we thank photographers Len Jenshel, Stan Ries, Andy Wainwright, and Nicholas Whitman.
For their advice, support, and encouragement of the exhibition, the Sharp Family Gallery, and this publication we want to recognize the Olana Curatorial Committee: Susan Winokur, Chair; Armin B. Allen; Robin Campbell, Peebles Island Resource Center; Stephen Edidin, Curator of American & European Art, New York Historical Society; Sara Griffen, The Olana Partnership; Mary Ellen Hern, Associate Director for External Relations, The Norman Rockwell Museum; Judith Hernstadt; Frederick D. Hill; Paul Leach; John Lovell, Peebles Island Resource Center; Carri Manchester, Olana State Historic Site; Linda McLean, Olana State Historic State; Amy G. Poster, formerly Selz Asian Art Chair, Brooklyn Museum of Art; Richard T. Sharp; Carol Irish Strone, Carol Strone Art Advisory; and Karen Zukowski, Independent Scholar.
Finally, we wish to thank the generous individual and institutional donors that provided the necessary funds that have made this important book and exhibition possible: anonymous; Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund; Mr. and Mrs. Brock Ganeles; Frederick D. and Eileen Hill; Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission; Mark LaSalle; Paul Leach and Susan Winokur; Henry and Sharon Martin;
The New York State Council on the Arts Museum Program; Open Space Institute, Inc. Barnabas McHenry Award; Eileen Patrick and Jeffrey Ervine; Lou Salerno, Questroyal Fine Art; and Richard T. Sharp.
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.