Thomas Cole was an American landscape painter who founded this country’s first major art movement, the Hudson River School. He cared passionately about nature and the landscape that surrounded him, and in his many paintings one can see the beauty and splendor of the Hudson Valley region, as well as the changes he observed over the years.
Now on view at the Hudson River Museum is the exhibition Thomas Cole Refrain: The Paintings of Catskill Creek, curated by H. Daniel Peck. Throughout the gallery, one can see the progression and variety of paintings of this location, Catskill Creek, that was particularly special to him, and was the subject of at least 10 paintings throughout his career. Included are major works from private collections, as well as the New-York Historical Society, Yale University Art Gallery, The National Gallery of Art, Albany Institute of History and Art, Olana State Historic Site, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, and The Currier Museum of Art. The exhibition also includes works portraying the same location by Asher B. Durand, Frederic Edwin Church, and Charles Herbert Moore , where one can see the artists’ different approaches and styles.
In the wall texts, the viewer is guided through the variations and differences in symbolism that are found within these works, comparing and contrasting the possible meaning and significance. Using photographs and maps, we are provided with background on Catskill Creek. We also learn about aspects of Cole’s background that likely contributed to his inspiration and motivation to paint the subject matter for which he ultimately became known.
The accompanying catalogue has forewords by Elizabeth B. Jacks, Executive Director of Thomas Cole National Historic Site, and Masha Turchinsky, Director of Hudson River Museum. In the catalog, Mr. Peck provides history of the location as well as background information on Thomas Cole, which offers a deeper understanding of not only these paintings, but the artist’s overall body of work.
In September 2016, Scenic Hudson partnered with the Greene Land Trust to protect 144 scenic and historic acres along Catskill Creek, more at scenichudson.org. To learn more about Thomas Cole, one can visit his home, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, New York, more at thomascole.org.
Thomas Cole’s Refrain: The Paintings of Catskill Creek is on view through February 23, 2020. For hours and more information, visit their website at hrm.org. Hudson River Museum is located at 511 Warburton Avenue in Yonkers, New York. (914) 963-4550.
All photos by Laura Schroeder