THROUGH AMERICAN EYES: FREDERICK CHURCH AND THE LANDSCAPE OIL SKETCH
Frederic Church is one of America’s Hudson Valley painters. He lived from 1826 to 1900.
We went to Olana, his Husdon Valley home and estate, one day in July last year, during what was a debilitating heatwave. Temperatures up on the high 30s! We were on a visit to stay with family, who live in Ulster County, New York State, so it was within driving distance, and the car had air con of course.
There are a number of interesting large houses on the banks of the Hudson River, which are usually placed on high ground giving fine views of this beautiful river. The rich used to come there for the summer, to get away from the humidity of the city.
This particular house is very well preserved and quite unusual; it is built in the Persian style and was constructed at a time when Frederick Church had made himself a wealthy man from his paintings. So everything was of the highest quality. The house is smaller than I had imagined it would be, and dark inside, with so many ornate surfaces and dark works of art, both paintings and sculpture and ceramics.
Remember to book your admittance though. We arrived at the ticket office a little after our booked time, due to the problem we had in finding a parking space. The car park is tiny. For that reason we had to wait for about 45 minutes before the next slot for visitors. The house is kept closed and locked unless opened for a group tour, so all you can do is wander around the grounds, or buy stuff in the shop. Luckily for us, there is a small barn where a film is shown, probably on a loop, about Olana and the Church family.
Inside we were conducted around and given a good introduction to Church and his work, but the guides are all volunteers so you may, or may not, get a good one. A bit like our own dear National Trust.
I liked the Church landscapes very much, and the family nicknacks were fascinating, as was learning about the background to the painter and his fellow artists of the Hudson Valley School.
The heat outside was still very enervating, and there is no cafe or drinks stall, so we decided to drive across the river to the small town of Hudson, where we parked. Then we shrivelled up in the blast of midday walking along the deserted streets, to a well-reviewed Italian restaurant for a good lunch.
It is well worth going to Olana if you are there on holiday, and also try and see the other mansions in the Hudson Valley, they are quite different from our own stately homes, because they were designed for holiday residences and not long term family homes. In those days you travelled to your holiday home by river steamer, because the railroad had yet to reach that far up river.
NATIONAL GALLERY EXHIBITION
I was very interested to read the article in The Daily Telegraph Travel section of February 2, by Susan Marling, called ‘A brush with the sublime’, about the new exhibition at the National Gallery dedicated to Frederick Church. The photographs too were excellent. The exhibition is called:
Through American Eyes: Frederic Church and the Landscape Oil Sketch’
The exhibition runs from February 6 until April 28.