Moving Art, Moving Audiences: Nineteenth-Century Travelling Exhibitions and the Matter of Abolition
In the mid-nineteenth century, Americans faced a new way to encounter art: the traveling exhibition. Sculptures, panoramas, and paintings crisscrossed the country, appearing at venues that included exhibition and entertainment halls, galleries, reform societies, and fairs. During this virtual webinar, Caitlin Meehye Beach will explore the phenomenon of traveling exhibitions as they intersected a pressing concern of the day: the abolition of slavery. Following the publication of her 2022 book, Sculpture at the Ends of Slavery, this presentation focuses on three works in particular: Hiram Powers’ The Greek Slave, Henry “Box” Brown’s The Mirror of Slavery, and Frederic Edwin Church’s The Icebergs. Tune in to consider the mobilization of images to abolish slavery, and the regimes of race, sentiment, and spectacle that would be confronted in so doing.
Caitlin Meehye Beach, Ph.D, is an Assistant Professor of Art History and Affiliated Faculty in African & African American Studies at Fordham University. Her teaching and research focus on transatlantic art histories of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with special attention to the enduring effects of colonialism, slavery, migration, and racial capitalism. Published by University of California Press, Sculpture at the Ends of Slavery is her first book and a recipient of The Phillips Collection Book Prize.
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In 1977, a proposed nuclear power plant on the west bank of the Hudson River threatened scenic views from Olana. The potential visual impact of the proposed project on Frederic Church’s view from Olana was instrumental in denying approval for the plant. Years later, similar arguments were used to prevent the construction of an immense cement plant north of Olana, once again using the site’s integral viewshed to protect historic landscapes.
During this webinar, Harvey Flad, Professor Emeritus of Geography at Vassar College, will share a personal perspective on how Olana’s views have been saved. Join Flad during this examination of how historic and aesthetic landscape, and other aspects of “community character,” has become a valued component of environmental review.
Harvey K. Flad is Professor Emeritus of Geography at Vassar College (1972-2004), former Chair of the Geography and Earth Sciences department, and founding member of the American Studies, Environmental Studies and Urban Studies programs. Dr. Flad’s scholarship has focused on cultural and historical landscapes and environmental and urban planning. He has published numerous articles on 19th century landscape design theory and practice, including the influence of the Hudson River School of Art and the work of Andrew Jackson Downing. His legal testimonies on the visual/aesthetic impact of a proposed nuclear power plant in 1979 and a massive cement plant in 2005, were instrumental in preserving the views from Olana.
What happens when an artist and his travel companion set forth to chase icebergs? The immediate result is a suite of drawings and oil sketches created to inspire future paintings, and a travelogue written to draw attention to the artist’s dedication to his craft. Frederic Church’s massive painting, The Icebergs, painted shortly after the trip, is the capstone of that adventure. But the painting soon embarked on its own journey across the Atlantic to England, where it was presumed lost for more than a century. During this virtual webinar, Eleanor Jones Harvey will recount that voyage, which encompasses inspiration, accolades, disappearance, and rediscovery. Registration to this live webinar is free for members. This program will be recorded and available online.
Eleanor Jones Harvey is senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM). She earned a B.A. with distinction in art history from the University of Virginia, and a Ph.D. in the history of art from Yale University. She organized the widely-praised exhibition The Civil War and American Art (SAAM and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2012-2013). Her most recent exhibition was Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture, (SAAM, 2020-2021). From 1992-2002 she was Curator of American Art at the Dallas Museum of Art, where she organized the exhibition The Voyage of the Icebergs: Frederic Church’s Arctic Masterpiece in 2002 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the gift of the painting to the museum.
Impressions of Niagara through the Vantage Point of Black Escape Artists, Black Activists, and Landscape Artist Frederic Church
Niagara Falls separates the United States and Canada and in the 19th Century, Blacks employed international lines to pit the two nations against one another for the best possible outcomes. As Blacks from both countries crossed a fluid border marked by two-way movement and social collaboration, they were in awe of the Falls famously captured on canvas by Frederic Church in 1867. Against the backdrop of the picturesque Falls, Blacks cultivated a global and green outlook, developing the Niagara Movement which birthed the NAACP in the midst of Niagara’s wonders, whirlpools, and waves. During this webinar, Daniel J. Broyld will examine how Niagara, a vitally important painting subject for Church, speaks to a larger transformative transnational environment with potent importance for Blacks in the 19th century and beyond.
Daniel J. Broyld is an associate professor of African American History at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He earned his PhD in nineteenth-century United States and African Diaspora History at Howard University. His work focuses on the American–Canadian borderlands and issues of Black identity, migration, and transnational relations as well as oral history, material culture, and museum-community interactions. broyld was a 2017-18 Fulbright Canada scholar at Brock University and his book Borderland Blacks: Two Cities in the Niagara Region During the Final Decades of Slavery (2022) was recently published with the Louisiana State University Press.
During this virtual webinar, Sean Sawyer, President of The Olana Partnership will discuss how Frederic Church engaged with the emerging field of ecology in the 19th century. By following in Alexander von Humboldt’s footsteps in his meteoric rise as the country’s most celebrated landscape painter and then in his four decade-long development of Olana, Church immersed himself in “landscape architecturing” to speak to the history of the land and human impact on it.
As a painter, Church defined our national identity as inextricably linked to the majesty of the natural world. At Olana, a National Historic Landmark and New York State Historic Site, Church sought to marry aesthetic endeavor and environmental action. At the core of this endeavor was the ambitious reforestation of 250-acres of overworked land with native trees. Learn more about the intersections of art and ecology latent in Olana’s history and designed landscape during this virtual presentation. Registration to this live webinar is free for members. This program will be recorded and available online.
Sean Sawyer has served as the Washburn & Susan Oberwager President of The Olana Partnership since May 2015. He received a B.A. summa cum laude in Art History & Archaeology from Princeton University in 1988 and his Ph.D. in Architectural History from Columbia University in 1999. Prior to joining Olana, Sean was the Executive Director of The Royal Oak Foundation, the American partner of the National Trust of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. He began his non-profit career as Executive Director of the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.
First published at the tender age of seven, Amelia Ann Blanford Edwards was a successful novelist and travel writer. In the winter of 1873 -1874, Edwards went to Egypt for the first time sailing up the Nile in a houseboat, visiting many of the most important sites, and documenting her travels. Her illustrated record of the trip, A Thousand Miles up the Nile, was published in 1877 and became a bestseller. The Churches’ own library at Olana housed this foundational work of Egyptology, along with along with 11 other copies of books by Edwards. Edwards’ lifelong efforts to preserve Egyptian monuments not only firmly planted her legacy in Egyptian studies but brought Edwards to Olana to stay with Frederic Church during a set of speaking tours in America in 1889-1890. During this webinar, Dr. Peter Lacovara will discuss Edwards’ important efforts as the “Godmother of Egyptology,” including her co-founding of the Egypt Exploration Fund which continues to set out annual expeditions to excavate, record and preserve archaeological sites throughout Egypt.
Peter Lacovara (B.A. 1976, Boston University; Ph.D. 1993 The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago) is Director of The Ancient Egyptian Archaeology and Heritage Fund, Consulting Curator for the Egyptian Collection at the Albany Institute of History and Art, and Visiting Research Scholar at the American University in Cairo. He was Senior Curator of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern Art at the Michael C. Carlos Museum from 1998 to 2014. Previously, he has served as Assistant Curator in the Department of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian and Near Eastern Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. His publications include studies on Daily Life and Urbanism in Ancient Egypt, Egyptian Mortuary Traditions, and the Material Culture of Ancient Egypt and Nubia.
"Catskill's China Painter:" The Botanical Art of Emily Cole and the Politics of Women's Work within American Painting Traditions
Join Amanda Malmstrom (she/her), Associate Curator at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, for this presentation exploring the life, work, and legacy of Emily Cole (1843-1913), a lifelong artist of botanicals and painted porcelain. Emily chose as her subject plants and their flowers, close-up and in isolation, celebrating the Catskill landscape through methods differing from that of Hudson River School painters like her father Thomas Cole, who depicted the sweeping, picturesque, and sublime vistas of landscapes. Emily Cole created an extensive oeuvre of works which she sold and exhibited in the Hudson Valley and New York City, where she also served as a charter member of the New York Society of Ceramic Arts in 1892. Through her presentation, Malmstrom will explore Emily Cole’s relationship with her family and lifelong home in Catskill, NY, and well as with the Church family residing across the river in Hudson, NY. Recent discoveries show that Frederic Church served as a mentor to Emily Cole while she was at art school, and Church’s daughter Isabel or “Downie” confided in Emily Cole as close friends and fellow botanical artists. Emily Cole’s life, art, and personal and professional circles provide a lens not only into American flower painting in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, but a way to examine the social and political implications of women’s work during this period and as presented at historic sites and museums today.
Amanda Malmstrom (she/her) is Associate Curator at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, where she first served as a Cole Fellow in 2018-2019. Her work and research at the Cole Site has centered on highlighting the lives and labor of women who called the historic site home and who painted in the Hudson River School.
Edward Mitchell Bannister’s career as a successful practicing artist in New England during the late nineteenth century was considered normal. He accepted commissions, painted, socialized with his peers, and sailed his boat along the Narragansett Bay in his leisure time. But, as an African American artist living during the 19th century, the level of normalcy Edward Bannister experienced was, in fact, quite exceptional. Just ten years prior to Bannister’s winning a major art award at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, the United States had ended the bloodiest war it has ever fought—the Civil War—to end slavery in the US. During this webinar, Rosalyn Delores Elder will explore Bannister’s career and how his laser-focused determination foreshadowed his future success in the midst of exceptional circumstances. Elder is a registered architect, entrepreneur, author, and artist. She received her B.A. Degree in Art History from the University of Memphis, her M. Arch. Degree from the University of Washington, and her M. Arch. in Urban Design Degree from Harvard University. Ms. Elder recently authored Exploring the Legacy, a book on the contributions of African Americans to both our state’s history and our country’s history.
Named America’s Best Interior Designer by Time magazine and CNN, Sheila Bridges is considered a creative visionary and design tastemaker. Bridges is recognized for her classic yet versatile design aesthetic and critical eye. Her visual cultural translations have been showcased in museums around the country and Europe including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Studio Museum of Harlem, The Museum of Art and Design in New York City, The Museum of the City of New York, and Musée De La Toile De Jouy in Jouy-en Josas France. Bridges is also honored to have her designs included in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, The Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, The RISD Museum, and most recently The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC (NMAAHC). She holds degrees from Brown University and Parsons School of Design, and studied decorative arts at Polimoda in Florence, Italy. She serves on The Olana Partnership’s Board of Trustees.
An editor and producer, Sabine Rothman is one of the co-founders of Interiors Academy, a consultancy and a platform for conversations connecting the global design community. Sabine was most recently Editorial Market Director of the Hearst Design Group, where she led a team creating content for Elle Decor, House Beautiful, and Veranda magazines. Previously, Sabine held various editorial roles at Condé Nast’s House & Garden. She is co-author of the book Clarence House: The Art of the Textile (Rizzoli, 2011) with creative director Kazumi Yoshida.
Learn more about the introduction, spread, and management of invasive species during this virtual webinar. Department of Environmental Conservation Invasive Species Forester Rob Cole and filmmaker Steve Powers will discuss Westfield Production Company’s recent documentary, Uninvited, that introduces the concept of invasive species. Their presentation will highlight some of the species threatening New York’s environment and economy, while also showing some innovative ways that New York State is combating these threats. This webinar will feature information about the documentary’s production and highlight the collaborative work of DEC and its partners. The introduction, spread, and management of invasive species are heavily influenced by the actions of citizens who live, work, and recreate on public and private lands and waterways of New York. Join us to learn more about what you can do to prevent, manage and spread awareness about the spread of harmful invasives.
In the mid-nineteenth century, what we think were the Christmas celebrations of today were actually just beginning. In this virtual lecture, Historic New England’s Ken Turino narrates the history of female abolitionists in America and their contributions to the development of modern American Christmas traditions. These abolitionists, including Maria Chapman and Lydia Marie Child, hosted Christmas fairs to raise money for the abolitionist cause. Turino looks at the Sewing Circles both abroad and across America that contributed a wide array of goods for sale at these fairs. These fairs had a wide-ranging influence on a number of Christmas traditions, including the adoption of greenery and the Christmas tree in America.
Ken Turino is a curator, educator, director, producer, and author. As Manager of Community Partnerships and Resource Development at Historic New England, he oversees community engagement projects throughout the region and is responsible for the exhibitions at the Sarah Orne Jewett Museum and Visitor Center in South Berwick, Maine and the Langdon House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. His films have been shown on PBS and he has curated recent exhibitions such as “Cultural Keeper, Cultural Maker,” paintings of Richard Haynes. Ken’s most recent publication, with Max von Balgooy in 2019, is Reinventing the Historic House Museum, New Approaches and Proven Solutions, for Rowman & Littlefield. He has served on the Council for the American Association for State and Local History and currently has a book on the history of Christmas in development.
"The Land of Beautiful Flowers and Birds: The Journey of Frederic Edwin Church through New Granada" with Dr. Verónica Uribe
Frederic Edwin Church arrived in New Granada on April 28th,1853 seeking inspiration from the tropical landscape that was previously recorded by Alexander von Humboldt in Cosmos (1845). This talk will follow the trail left by Church while crossing the territory of current-day Colombia, characterized by his fascination with what he encountered and the great discomforts of navigating the complex geography and culture. Food, birds, plants, people, and astonishing views were part of his adventure and recorded through sketches, letters, and a bilingual diary. In this virtual program, Professor Verónica Uribe will discuss how Church fed his visual memory and brought these memories to life through his well-known paintings of the tropics.
Verónica Uribe has a BFA (2000), and an MFA (2001) from the Australian National University and a PhD in Humanities from the Universidad Pompeu Fabra of Barcelona (2009). She is Associate Professor in Art History at the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia and currently chairs the Art History Department in the same University (2017-present). She recently won a Terra Foundation for American Art Academic Grant (2019) and has recently been invited as a Getty Research Institute Scholar (2022). She has published three books in Spanish on sketchbooks, traveling painters, and representations of bridges in nineteenth-century Colombia.
"Behind the Butler's Pantry: OLANA and the Lives of Irish Servants in the Hudson Valley" with Dr. Elizabeth Stack and Daniel W. Bigler
Join Dr. Elizabeth Stack, Executive Director of the Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany, and Daniel W. Bigler, Historic Site Assistant at Olana State Historic Site, for a virtual presentation and conversation about the lives of Irish American servants hired at Frederic Church’s Olana. This conversation will use the Church’s history of employing Irish immigrants as a framework to consider the network of Irish domestic servants that existed in the region during the 19th century. Through their dialogue, the speakers will consider how Olana functioned as both a workplace and a home for Irish immigrants and take a broader look at the lives of domestic servants and the challenges they faced during this period.
Photo credit: Peter Aaron/OTTO
As a renowned landscape painter, Frederic Church had long grappled with how to capture the vibrantly animated world around him. His paintings and drawings attest to both the heights he achieved in these efforts as well as their vexing limits. With his foray into house building in the early 1870s, Church moved into an immersive, three-dimensional format for his art, manipulating space and daylight as artistic materials. During this webinar, Julia B. Rosenbaum (Bard College) considers the first-floor interiors of his home at Olana not only as a deliberate composition—of a piece with his two-dimensional oeuvre—but as an aesthetic culmination of his enduring engagement with issues of visual perception and bodily proprioception.
Julia B. Rosenbaum focuses on nineteenth and early twentieth-century American visual material. Author of Visions of Belonging, a professor of art history and visual culture at Bard College and has served as consulting Director of Research and Publications at The Olana Partnership.
photo credit: Peter Aaron/OTTO
Join us in welcoming Dr. Theodore E. Stebbins, former curator at the Museum of Fine Arts and Harvard’s Fogg Museum for a virtual lecture on what he calls Martin Johnson Heade’s “topsy-turvy career.” During this virtual presentation, Dr. Stebbins will provide a glimpse at some of his own changing thoughts on the painter, the circumstances of Heade’s rediscovery in 1943, and the way Heade’s reputation has continued to grow. He will also focus on Heade’s special relationship with Frederic E. Church and the various ways that Heade’s work has been interpreted by scholars in recent years. Dr. Stebbins has been studying Martin Johnson Heade’s work since 1965 and organized the landmark exhibition of Heade’s work at the MFA in 1999. In 2000, he published Heade’s catalogue raisonne, listing his 621 authentic paintings.
This virtual lecture is presented by The Thomas Cole National Historic Site and The Olana Partnership at Olana State Historic Site in conjunction with “Cross Pollination: Heade, Cole, Church, and Our Contemporary Moment,” a joint exhibition created by Thomas Cole National Historical Site, The Olana Partnership at Olana State Historic Site, and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas.
"Living with Pollinators: Biodiversity and Artistic Practice in the Hudson Valley" with Lisa Sanditz, Paula Hayes, and Fox Farm Apiary
The Thomas Cole National Historic Site and The Olana Partnership at Olana State Historic Site present a discussion with artists Paula Hayes, Lisa Sanditz, and beekeeper Chris Layman from Fox Apiary. In this webinar, our guests examine the connections between art, ecology, environmental stewardship, and our role in local habitats.
Olana’s collection contains two paintings, boldly rendered studies of exotic flowers, that remained unattributed until research published in 2010 connected them to Marianne North (1830-1890). North, an intrepid British botanical artist who traveled the world documenting plant life and landscapes in oil, visited Olana twice and admired the art of Frederic Church. In this webinar, The Olana Partnership’s Curatorial Assistant, Allegra K. Davis, will examine the life and work of Marianne North through the lenses of Victorian gender roles and practices of imperial science, while drawing parallels between Church and North as travelers, painters, and ultimately, collectors on a global scale.
"Fragility and Resilience: Art, Ecology, and our Contemporary Moment" with Sayler/Morris, Rachel Sussman and Dr. Scott Manning Stevens
Join artists Sayler/Morris, Rachel Sussman, and Dr. Scott Manning Stevens as they discuss the connections between art, ecology, and climate change. Sussman’s photographic series The Oldest Living Things in the World and Sayler/Morris’s video installation Eclipse are included in “Cross Pollination: Heade, Cole, Church, and Our Contemporary Moment,” on view at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and Olana State Historic Site. Through their artwork, both Sayler/Morris and Sussman examine the fragility of life and the question of balance between humans and the natural world. This conversation will aim to bridge the gap between artistic practice and scientific thought, a theme in Cross Pollination. During this conversation, all of the artists will be in conversation with Dr. Scott Manning Stevens, Associate Professor and Director of Native American and Indigenous Studies at Syracuse University.
The panel will be co-moderated by Cross Pollination Co-Curators Kate Menconeri, Curator / Director of Collections & Exhibitions at Thomas Cole National Historic Site, and Will Coleman, Director of Collections & Exhibitions at The Olana Partnership.
Rachel Sussman is a Brooklyn-based artist whose critically acclaimed, decade-long project “The Oldest Living Things in the World” combines art, science, and philosophy. Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris (Sayler/Morris) use diverse media to investigate and contribute to the development of ecological consciousness. Sayler/Morris are the founders of Toolshed, housed at Basilica Hudson, and the Canary Project.
Join Jean-Marc Superville Sovak, multidisciplinary artist and teaching professional and professor Myra Armstead for a virtual presentation and conversation about the lives of black Americans during the time of Olana’s creation. During this program, Sovak will introduce his series, a- Historical Landscapes, a current project which involves altering 19th century landscape engravings to include contemporaneous images borrowed from Anti-Slavery publications. Through discussion with Professor Myra Armstead, Lyford Paterson Edwards and Helen Gray Edwards and Professor of Historical Studies at Bard College, this conversation will consider how the timeline of Church’s site-specific masterpiece, Olana, runs concurrent to the experiences of men and women born into slavery in the Hudson Valley.
Join artist Portia Munson and conservationist Kathryn Schneider as they discuss Munson’s artwork onsite at Olana, Memento Mori Mandalas. During this presentation, learn more about Munson’s work, which memorializes and honors creatures that have paid the price of humanity’s harsh impact on the land. Through conversation, this webinar will explore Memento Mori Mandalas’ timely ecological connections and the lives of regional bird species highlighted in Munson’s work. Evoking the transitory Buddhist spiritual practice of mandala making, Munson’s work reflects on the passing beauty of earthly things and the costs of climate change with arrangements that center on fallen birds, insects, and creatures she finds on her walks around our region.
While Frederic Church won acclaim during his lifetime for his skills as a painter, a focus solely on Church’s paintings ignores his technical experimentation in multiple media, including drawing and printmaking. In this virtual webinar, Maura Lyons (Drake University) will focus on two Civil War-era works, Our Banner in the Sky and Our Flag, to examine Church’s working process more closely. Lyons will highlight her research using scientific techniques to examine Our Flag while working at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA). These techniques allow us to see below the surface layers of paint to detect the presence of other media. Such examinations reveal Church’s working process, which resulted in a flexible visual language that spoke to both the general public and wealthy patrons.
The nineteenth-century German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt characterized his life’s work as an endeavor “to represent nature as one great whole, moved and animated by internal forces.” In this presentation, Rachael Z. DeLue, Christopher Binyon Sarofim ’86 Professor in American Art at Princeton University, discusses the challenges presented by such an ambitious undertaking. Consideration of the extraordinary images devised by Humboldt to represent the multifarious phenomena of the natural world sets the stage for an exploration of work by artists like Frederic Church and Martin Johnson Heade, who followed in Humboldt’s footsteps in attempting to render the truth of nature, no matter how elusive, wondrous, or strange. From Humboldt’s teeming diagrams of South American mountain ranges to Heade’s exquisite paintings of hummingbirds, Prof. DeLue explores what it meant in the nineteenth century for artists and scientists to wrangle the natural world with pen, ink, and paint and why, so often, the task proved an impossible one.
In 1851 Frederic Church travelled through Virginia in the company of his patron Cyrus Field with the goal of reaching and painting that state’s most famous landscape, the Natural Bridge. Formerly the property of Thomas Jefferson, the Natural Bridge was frequently rendered by the pencil and brush of nineteenth century artists, very few of whom could escape the outsized legacy of the former President in crafting a popular conception of the Natural Bridge. Christopher Oliver will consider Church’s painting of the following year, The Natural Bridge, Virginia, and its preparatory sketches, which are in the collection of Olana, in relation to the Natural Bridge’s contemporary associations with American history, western expansion, and slavery.
Join artist Jean Shin as she shares the ideas and ecological urgency behind her new artwork onsite at Olana, Fallen. During this presentation, learn more about Shin’s work and this project, which brings attention to the loss of this once-majestic hemlock on Olana’s main lawn. When the artist Frederic Church created Olana’s 250-acre naturalistic landscape, he planted thousands of native trees on a hillside that had been previously logged and deforested. In the 19th century, hundreds of thousands of hemlocks were cut down for the tanning industry, which used the tannin in the tree’s bark for the commercial demands of leather-making. Fallen invites viewers to reflect on this tree’s life and the cultural history of this region. While reckoning with the devastating consequences of deforestation in the local history, Shin’s project invites viewers to observe their natural surroundings more closely and witness nature’s struggles. Through her work and during this webinar, Shin will consider how we can learn from the past and coexist without exploiting nature and how we can protect the hemlocks that remain for future generations.
Eliza Pratt Greatorex (1819-1897) and Frederic Church (1826-1900) were two near-contemporary visual artists of fierce ambition and enormous talent. They inhabited the same New York art world, traveled extensively in the service of their art, and earned critical acclaim across the United States and Europe. Putting their careers in dialogue, this presentation examines their artistic practices, globe-trotting itineraries and strategies for engaging with the public. Given that Church was a Connecticut Yankee with deep American roots while Greatorex (née Pratt) left her native Ireland for NY during the Great Famine in 1848, Professor Katherine Manthorne will probe the roles that family background, faith and gender played in their individual searches for success and home.
In the U.S., one of the earliest and most passionate discussions around the fine arts and their role in defining American identity and national aspirations took place over neoclassical sculpture. Issues of belonging and citizenship, gender, race, region, and class were negotiated through the medium of marble. In the 19th century, Mary Edmonia Lewis (1845-1907), the first woman of Ojibwe and African American descent to gain international acclaim as a sculptor, entered these conversations. In this presentation, Professor Kirsten Buick will explore the impact of Lewis’s career on the most compelling debates of her day–the fight to abolish slavery, True Womanhood, spirituality, and how the U.S. would resolve its relationship to its Indigenous populations.
During this Olana Perspectives Webinar, Jennifer Raab, Associate Professor in the History of Art at Yale, will investigate how Frederic Church’s travels through the Middle East and his paintings of Jerusalem and Petra shaped his Hudson Valley home and masterpiece, Olana. Raab is the author of Frederic Church: The Art and Science of Detail (2015), which considers a selection of Church’s major landscape paintings in light of scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century.
Michele Phillips is the Paper Conservator at the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP), working at the centralized conservation labs at the Bureau of Historic Sites & Parks, Peebles Island Resources Center. Her treatment specialty ranges from prints, drawings & letters, to wallpaper & large maps. Michele is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, a regular presenter at international museum conferences, and a grant reviewer for the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the New York State Council of the Arts. She lives in Troy, NY, where she is a trustee of the Hart Cluett Museum.
Have you ever wondered what kind of work goes into caring for the delicate and diverse permanent collection of Olana and readying works of art for exhibition? In this talk, we’ll hear from one of the nationally prominent conservators who care for the collections of the New York state historic sites network. Michele Phillips will offer a lively glimpse into the particular challenges of dealing with old works of art on paper, including drawings, documents, engravings, and photographs.
She’ll provide a number of case studies from the collection that illustrate the creative problem solving that goes into her work, combining art and science to ensure this great collection can be enjoyed by the public for many years to come. This will be a rare chance to see behind the scenes of the vibrant public-private partnership that makes Olana tick.
This talk by one of the world’s leading scholars and advocates of Mexico’s rich tradition of textile art will focus on a little known story in Olana’s diverse collections. Marta Turok takes as her focus Olana’s important holdings of uncannily well preserved “rebozos,” traditional shawls primarily used by indigenous women that were purchased by the Church family during their travels in Mexico. She will give a brief overview of the history of the Mexican rebozo and share the challenges facing the future of this emblematic garment, including activities being undertaken for its revitalization.
One of our country’s most prominent curator-scholars shares the unique perspective of his decades-long engagement with Frederic Church and Olana. This personal reflection looks back on how he came to know Church, to study him and his work seriously in graduate school, to work as a curator of his work in groundbreaking exhibitions and publications, and brings the story down to the present day with his bird’s-eye view of the recent fate of Church’s work, including rediscoveries, new research, and the art market.
Frederic Church, America’s first international art star, returned from his travels through the Near East in 1869 filled with inspiration for the great house that he planned to build on his property near Hudson, New York. He turned to Calvert Vaux, an architect well known for his successful collaborations with landscape designers, particularly Church’s friend Frederick Law Olmsted. Dr. Sean Sawyer, the Washburn and Susan Oberwager President of The Olana Partnership, will explore the intensely collaborative design partnership that produced Olana’s Main House.
Mary Roberts is the John Schaeffer Professor of Art History at the University of Sydney. She is a specialist in nineteenth-century European Orientalist and late Ottoman art, with particular expertise in the history of artistic exchanges and the culture of travel. In 2016 she was awarded the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand’s Book Prize for Istanbul Exchanges. Ottomans, Orientalists and Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture (University of California Press, 2015). Her first book, Intimate Outsiders: The Harem in Ottoman and Orientalist Art and Travel Literature, was published by Duke University Press in 2007. She has co-edited four other books and has been a Getty Scholar, CASVA Senior Fellow, YCBA Fellow and Clark-Oakley Fellow. Her next book is on artists as collectors of Islamic art.
“About an hour this side of Albany is the Center of the world – I own it.”
Frederic Church to Erastus Dow Palmer, July 7, 1869
What kind of world is it that Frederic Church was creating in his Persian-inspired home on the Hudson? This lecture proposes some answers to this question by analysing three of the interior sightlines within his home and considering the way each distinctively engages with visual cultures of the Near East. First, the sitting room: I tease out the significance of Church’s painting, El Khasné, Petra, in this space by studying his drawings made while travelling and the written account of that journey. Second, the court hall: paying particular attention to the optical effects Church was creating with his staircase, my study of the preparatory drawings for this part of the room reveals the diverse Islamic secular and religious visual sources he was translating into this focal point of his orientalist interior. Third, the fireplace sightline in one of the upstairs bedrooms: this brings into consideration an artist who was Church’s contemporary – the ceramicist Ali Mohammed Isfahani – whose work also circulated within global networks of patronage. Through this focus on some of Olana’s object worlds, its sightlines and architectural translations of eastern ornament, I explore the cultural politics of Church’s practice of worlding.
Farshid Emami is an assistant professor in the department of art history at Rice University. He is a historian of Islamic art and architecture with a focus on the early modern period and particularly Safavid Iran. He completed his Ph.D. in History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University in 2017. He is currently completing a book manuscript that offers a new narrative of architecture and urbanism in seventeenth-century Isfahan, the Safavid capital, through the analytical lens of urban experience. Drawing on unstudied primary sources, the book takes the reader on journeys through Isfahan’s markets, gardens, and coffeehouses, analyzing how the city fostered new human experiences and became a setting for fashioning selves.
Besides his publications on Safavid art and architecture, Farshid Emami has written on a range of topics in art and architectural history, including lithographic printing in the nineteenth century and modernist architecture and urbanism in the Middle East. His articles have appeared in the Muqarnas, Metropolitan Museum Journal, Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, South Asian Studies, and International Journal of Islamic Architecture.
Among the works kept at Olana are a group of ceramic tiles and objects attributed to Ali Muhammad Isfahani, a master of ceramic production active in Iran in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century during the late Qajar period (1789-1925). This presentation examines the imagery, iconography, and provenance of this corpus, particularly focusing on the figural tiles installed at two fireplaces at Olana. An examination of the context in which these tiles were created and transferred reveals that they do not merely reflect a traditional craft but were also products of the emerging tastes of the late nineteenth century in Western Europe and North America as well as in Qajar Iran.
Sarah Coffin is an independent decorative arts and design consultant, curator, and lecturer, who is a member of Olana’s National Advisory Committee, Most recently for over 14 years, she was Senior Curator and Head of the Product Design and Decorative Arts Department at Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum from which she retired in 2018. While there she curated blockbuster exhibitions on the Jazz Age, Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry, Rococo design from 1730-2008 and Feeding Desire on Dining Design from 1500-2005. In addition she oversaw the creation of the Permanent Collections floor with five exhibitions opening simultaneously for the renovated museum re-opening in 2014. One of the exhibitions she co-curated then was Passion for the Exotic: Lockwood de Forest and Frederic Church, featuring the museum’s de Forest-designed Teak Room and works, primarily from the collection with loans from Olana.
Lockwood de Forest (1850-1932), a painter and interior designer started his artistic career painting with Frederic Church at Olana. Related by marriage to Church, de Forest stayed at Olana during the 1870s, where he studied books in Church’s library on middle eastern design by Pascal Coste and Jules Bourgoin. In 1869 de Forest and Church travelled, painted and shopped in Greece and the Middle East with their families. The purchases appear in both Olana and Lockwood de Forest’s first interior design commission − his parents’ New York house of 1876. De Forest’s main contribution to Olana came after he set up an studio of mastercraftmen in the Indian city of Ahmedabad, in Gujarat in 1880-81 for the production of woodwork, metalwork, and other decorative designs. This talk will go inside Olana on a virtual tour of elements and furniture provided by de Forest, mostly from his Indian studio, supplemented by images of
other work by de Forest and related Indian sources, with special reference to how he and Church collaborated at Olana.
Hanan Munayyer is President of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation and a scholar and curator specializing in Palestinian and other Arab traditional dress. Her many exhibition credits include an important contribution as an advisor and essayist for Olana’s 2018 exhibition Costume and Custom: Middle Eastern Threads at Olana, which was guest curated by textile historian Lynne Z. Bassett. She has lectured widely for universities and museums and she co-produced and wrote the script of the 1990 documentary Palestinian Costumes and Embroidery: A Precious Legacy. Since 2009, Ms. Munayyer has been a member of the New Jersey Arab-American Heritage Commission, a state entity to which she was appointed by the governor. In 2011, she published the award-winning book Traditional Palestinian Costume: Origins and Evolution with Interlink Books, the result of 24 years of research about the origins of Middle Eastern textile arts and the evolution of Palestinian costumes and crafts.
As Frederic and Isabel Church travelled in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine in 1868, they commented on the “picturesque costumed individuals” (Isabel’s diary, 1868) they saw, inspiring them to bring back to Olana some costumes that are now some of the oldest extant Palestinian and Syrian costume items in any collection. They were featured in Church’s paintings of the Middle East, and were used in “a la Turque” parties at Olana. This collection will be reviewed in this presentation.
Frederic Church’s fascination with architectural decorations of the mansions in Damascus and Jerusalem that inspired the design of Olana also resulted in the acquisition of some “stones from a house in Damascus” (Church letter to W. Osborn, 1868) ) and numerous wall and door designs from Jerusalem that are on display at numerous locations at Olana. These will be highlighted.
Robert and Johanna Titus are retired professors of geology and biology. As popular science writers, they have authored four books and a thousand articles about the geology of the Hudson Valley. For years they have been studying how Ice Age glaciers sculpted the landscapes painted by members of the Hudson River School of Art. They have developed a theory that ice age activities had a lot to do with the development of what has been called the “sublime” by art historians and believe that an understanding of ice age history is necessary to fully appreciate our regions’ landscape art.
The 250 acres of land that comprise Frederic Church’s OLANA became the canvas for his pioneering endeavors in landscape architecture. Participants will learn about the geological history of Olana and the forces that shaped the 19th-century Hudson River School artist’s designed landscape. Specifically, Church contoured the grounds in order to create what are called “planned views.” Bob and Johanna Titus will visit three of Frederic Church’s best views and take us back in time to describe how the ice age glaciers sculpted them into the scenic sites that Church could tease from obscurity into landscape beauty. See the Hudson Valley and Olana’s landscape with new eyes—the eyes of scientists who see where science meets storytelling and time travel is possible.
Caitlin Condell is the associate curator and head of the Department of Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum where she oversees a collection of nearly 147,000 works on paper dating from the fourteenth century to the present. She has organized and contributed to numerous exhibitions and publications, including After Icebergs (2019–20), Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial(2019–20), Fragile Beasts (2016–17), Making Design (2014–15), and How Posters Work (2015), at Cooper Hewitt, and Making Room: The Space between Two and Three Dimensions (2012–13), at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA). Her publication E. McKnight Kauffer: The Artist in Advertising will be published by Rizzoli Electa in October, and the related exhibition Underground Modernist: E. McKnight Kauffer will open at Cooper Hewitt in December 2020.
In the summer of 1859, Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900)—the most celebrated American landscape painter of his time—journeyed to Newfoundland and Labrador to study and sketch icebergs. Arctic exploration had captured the imagination of the public in the preceding decades, and Church was lured to the North Atlantic by accounts of a surreal polar landscape. These studies, drawn from Cooper Hewitt’s collection of over 2,000 drawings by Church, offer us a moment to reflect with reverence on the fragility of our natural world. One hundred and sixty years later, Church’s studies are at once seductive and frighteningly poignant. Join curator Caitlin Condell as she gives a virtual tour of the exhibition After Icebergs at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and tells the story of how Church’s sketches came to Cooper Hewitt.
Sarah Cash is Associate Curator of American and British Paintings at the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Previously she served as curator of American art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, director of the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, and Assistant Curator at the Amon Carter Museum. She has also held positions at Yale University Art Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, in addition to previous positions at the National Gallery of Art.
This lecture presents aspects of Cash’s ongoing research into Frederic Church’s paintings and drawings of Niagara Falls, focusing on one of the most important landscape paintings in the history of American art—and an emblem of the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s historic legacy at the National Gallery of Art—Niagara (1857). Featuring the rich holdings of art and archival materials held by Olana, the lecture will reveal the artist’s working methods in creating Niagara and his two other large-scale exhibition paintings of the falls; these date to 1862 (unlocated) and 1867 (National Galleries of Scotland). Prints reproducing Niagara, as well as the promotional pamphlet accompanying the work on its extensive international tour, demonstrate how the painting established the artist’s reputation as the greatest landscape painter in North America.
Dr. Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser is the Alice Pratt Brown Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (appointed in 2010) where she served as co-curator for the Met’s major exhibition: Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings, in 2018, and which traveled to the National Gallery, London.
This talk focuses on the extraordinary role played by Frederic Church (1826-1900) as a founding trustee of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Museum is celebrating the artist’s legacy this year as part of the larger program for its 150th anniversary, both in the American Wing galleries as well as in the museum’s special exhibition, “Making the Met,” which you will be able to see when they re-open. Church helped to establish the broad vision and ambition for the museum during his thirty-year tenure as a Met trustee by adding works of art to the fledgling collections, and inspiring a legacy for American art that led to a series of important gifts of major paintings, culminating in a transformative 150th anniversary promised gift.
Olana’s Director of Collections and Exhibitions William L. Coleman, Ph.D. lead an illustrated talk entitled, “Olana as Epitome”.
This talk places Olana in a transatlantic history of artist’s houses, and of painter-architects, with the goal of showing the place we love is not an intriguing anomaly but rather the crystallization of widely held dreams. Case studies will include the houses of Peter Paul Rubens in what is now Belgium, John Constable’s family home in the East of England, and William Birch’s “Springland” near Philadelphia, a largely forgotten early American artist’s house that shows the roots of the Olana ideal even in this country. Of particular interest will be the lost houses of Frederic Church’s fellow travelers Albert Bierstadt and Jasper Francis Cropsey.
Dr. Eleanor Jones Harvey is Senior Curator for 19th-Century Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where she has worked since 2003.
In this special member’s event, Dr. Eleanor Jones Harvey shares her once in a lifetime exhibition Alexander Von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture, which is currently installed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum with plans to open to the public later this year and to remain on view through early January. She will start by sharing some behind the scenes perspective on the years of diplomacy and sleuthing required to assemble this exciting project, to which Frederic Church and Olana are central, including a number of loans from our collection. There will be a screening of a new video tour of this exhibition and discussion and questions will follow. Eleanor is a brilliant, original, iconoclastic, and charismatic voice in the art world and this event is not to be missed.
Subject Specialist Talk: Frederic Edwin Church & W.H. Osborn: Art, Patronage and Friendship by Dr. Christine Isabelle Oaklander
Christine Oaklander is an independent art historian and private art consultant with over thirty years of expertise in the field of American art. A native New Yorker, she was inspired to plunge into the mystery, history, and beauty of American art by posts at the New-York Historical Society and Spanierman Gallery in the 1980s.
Dr. Oaklander spoke on the lifelong friendship between Frederic Church and William Henry Osborn, Church’s principal patron. Osborn (1820-1894) was a self-made man with a fortune he had earned through natural business acumen. Introduced by Jonathan Sturges, Osborn became fast friends with Church. Osborn not only owned some of Church’s best paintings, he helped finance the artist’s extended trip to the Holy Land and Europe in 1867-69, and the Osborn home in New York City served as the Church family’s New York City home. The friendship, which extended through both families, lasted three generations. The names Frederic(k) and Church are carried down in the Osborn family to the current day.
Dorothy Heyl, General Counsel/Chief Compliance Officer at Prima Capital Advisors focuses on the story of how Olana came to be saved is largely an untold tale of passion, generosity, and guts.
After Church’s daughter-in-law died in 1964, having preserved Olana for decades with her husband Louis Palmer Church, her heirs put Olana on the market. An option granted by the Sally Church estate set the race for funds against a ticking clock. This much of the tale is known and was breathlessly covered by the New York Times and numerous magazines at the time. David Huntington, a junior professor at Smith College, led the effort, beginning with the restoration of Church’s reputation. Huntington’s group prevented the sale from going forward, raised funds for its purchase, and eventually persuaded Governor Nelson Rockefeller to sign legislation permitting the state to acquire it.
Professor of Art History, Graduate Center, City University of New York, Katherine Manthorne, focuses on ‘CAYAMBE’ BY FREDERIC CHURCH.
Professor Manthorne spoke about Frederic Church’s close study of nature and how he forged a tradition of traveler-art that spans from the 19th century to today.
Olana’s Director of Collections and Exhibitions William L. Coleman, Ph.D. focuses on “TROPICAL ORCHID” BY MARTIN JOHNSON HEADE.
This painting testifies to the complex friendship between artists Martin Heade and Frederic Church and served as inspiration for the upcoming exhibition, “Cross Pollination,” opening in 2021.