Frederic Edwin Church and The Civil War
The Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery
May 26-October 30, 2011
Chromolithograph, published by Groupil & Co., 1861, oil over chromolithograph, after Frederic Edwin Church, Our Banner in the Sky, April-May 1861, 7 9/16 x 11 3/8 in., OL.1986.29, Collection Olana State Historic Site, NYS OPRHP
Two weeks before the scheduled debut of Hudson River School landscape painter Frederic Church’s masterwork The Icebergs, Fort Sumter was bombarded marking the start of the American Civil War. Instead of cancelling the unveiling of the painting at Goupil’s Gallery, Church re-titled his masterpiece: “The North” Church’s Picture of Icebergs showing his support for the northern cause.
Church also pledged exhibition fees to assist the Union’s Patriotic Fund for the families of Union soldiers. Less than a month later, in further support, and in response to the patriotic fever that swept the North, in May 1861 Church painted “Our Banner in the Sky” – a sunrise resembling a Union Flag. The image became a popular chromolithograph issued by Goupil & Co. 2011 marked the Sesquicentennial of the fall of Fort Sumter and the start of the Civil War. Olana’s exhibition examined Church’s reaction to the conflict as an artist and how events involving his friends and colleagues affected him personally. The exhibition included: 4 oil sketches by Church; 2 pencil sketches by Church; 2 chromolithographs after Church; and works by Isaac Hayes and John Jameson.
In conjunction with the exhibition, “Rally ‘Round the Flag: Frederic Edwin Church and the Civil War,” Dr. Kevin J. Avery wrote a wonderful essay related to the exhibition for the academic journal The Hudson River Valley Review, a publication of the Hudson River Valley Institute (HRVI) at Marist College. The journal is available for sale at The Olana Museum Store, or through HRVI. To learn more about HRVI or to obtain a copy through subscription, click here. Dr. Avery has also contributed an article on the John S. Jameson section of the exhibition for the August 2011 issue of American Art Review. To read an expanded version of that essay with complete historical references, click here.
The exhibition is funded by The Olana Partnership, the not-for-profit support arm of Olana State Historic Site. Olana, the Churches’ Persian-inspired home and 250-acre designed landscape, is owned and operated by New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
We recognize the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo; New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey; Director of the Division for Historic Preservation Ruth Pierpont; Acting Director of the Bureau of Historic Sites John Lovell; Acting Regional Director, Taconic Region Garrett Jobson; Olana Site Manager Linda McLean; and Olana Interpretative Program Assistant Carri Manchester.
We are grateful to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Peebles Island Resource Center staff: Collections Manager Anne Ricard Cassidy and her staff Ronna Dixson and Mary Zaremski; Paper Conservator Michele Phillips; Frames Conservator Eric Price; Former Paintings Conservator Joyce Zucker, Painting Conservator Mary Beteljewski; Associate Textile Conservator Sarah Stevens, and Photographer Richard Claus.
We are also grateful to The Olana Partnership’s Curator Evelyn D. Trebilcock and Associate Curator Valerie A. Balint for organizing the exhibition, Archivist/Librarian Ida Brier for her research and curatorial interns Nina Heath and Julianna White for their assistance. We thank Vice President for Development Robert Burns; Director of Administration and Public Affairs Nelson Sterner and Executive Assistant Mary Curran. The exhibition is greatly enriched by generous loans from the private collections of Anonymous (two), Laura and David Grey, and Richard T. Sharp.
For their assistance with these loans we would like to express our appreciation to Patricia Everett, Laura and David Grey, Betty Krulik, Loie and Alex Acevedo, and Frederic W. Lapham III.
For their advice, support, and encouragement of the exhibition and the accompanying publication, we want to recognize the Olana Curatorial Advisory Committee. We hope that this brochure will serve to enlighten readers about the collections at Olana as well as Church’s artistic career and those of his friends during the Civil War long after the exhibition closes. It would not have been possible without a significant donation by New York Press & Graphics. We thank Dr. Kevin J. Avery for his wonderful essay and acknowledge Elaine Koss and Lory Frankel for their thoughtful editing and proofreading.