Friday, November 18, 2011

Hot Coles

MARRIED on Tuesday, November 22, 1836, by Rev. Joseph M. Phillips, at the ‘Cedar Grove’ estate/farm in Catskill, New York: Maria Bartow, to Thomas Cole.  The bride-to-be was the daughter of the late Stephen and Mary (Thompson) Bartow, and the niece of Alexander Thompson, proprietor of Cedar Grove.  The prospective bridegroom was the seventh child of James and Mary Cole, who immigrated from Lancashire, England, to the United States in 1818, when Thomas was 17 years old.   For a few years prior to the betrothal, Mr Cole lived in New York City and, part of the time, in a Cedar Grove cottage where he created a body of work, and achieved a growing reputation, as a landscape artist.
That event’s 175th anniversary will be re-enacted tomorrow (11/19), at the place--lately restored by local efforts--where it actually occurred.  Professional actors will play the principal parts, dressed in period-evoking clothing, and drawing on passages from actual letters exchanged by Thomas and Maria.   The ceremony will be based on the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, and the groom’s vows will be based on Thomas Cole’s own poetry, including a passage wherein Cole rejoices in the fulfillment of his “fondest hope,” finding “that loving spirit,” “the congenial one” who “would mingle soul with my soul—mind with mind,” whereby, “like two fountains forming one deep stream whose waters clear should be divided never….”
On display beside in the bridal chamber, loaned for the occasion by the Greene County Historical Society, will be the bride’s actual wedding gown.
The re-enactment is open to the public, at no charge.  Welcoming refreshments (thanks to Crossroads Brewery of Athens) will be served at 6pm, the ceremony will start at 6:30, and a reception with wedding cake (based on a vintage recipe) will commence at 7.  Guests are invited to don “top hats and ruffles” for the occasion. Some period clothing will be available on 
             CROSSED WIRES
Lamentably, the timing of the Cole House re-enactment coincides with that of another extraordinarily attractive local event: a concert (Schubert, Debussy, Brenet, Rameau) by the distinguished pianist Raj Bhimani, performed at BRIK Gallery (473 Main St, Catskill), from 7pm on Saturday, as a benefit for the Greene County Council on the Arts. “Virtuosic, heartfelt and eloquent,” as a New York Times reviewer of Mr Bhimani’s keyboard work.

 “There was no larger force in American Art than Thomas Cole. Born in England, the artist immigrated to America in 1818 and was a successful landscape painter in the Catskills by 1825…. His paintings are featured in the collections of almost every major museum, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Gallery of Art, and the Musée du Louvre.” ArtInfo, 11/15/10.

COMING HOME: an original oil sketch, on wood pulp paperboard, by Thomas Cole.  It’s a modest thing, small (11 inches by 8), drawn (in pre-photography days) to capture a scene for later use in the studio composition of a fully realized landscape painting.  In this case, the scene evidently was drawn from a corner of Cole’s buckwheat field. 
The sketch is coming home as a gift from the Seattle Art Museum.  In the judgment of Patricia Junker, curator of American Art at that museum (and a 2010 speaker at Cole House), the sketch  was made two or three years before Cole died in 1848.  It was given by the Cole family to Charles G. Coffin (1857-1910), who lived on Spring Street, just across from Cole’s place at Cedar Grove.  It later found its way to Montclair NJ and thence to the Seattle museum.
The acquisition becomes one of the few original Coles that belong to Cole House. Other originals displayed there are loans, of indefinite duration, from the Greene County Historical Society, the Catskill Public Library, and Richard Sharp and Henry Martin, private collectors.

GONE HOME, at substantial expense (shipping; insurance) to owners in Cincinnati, Mitchelleville MD, Chattanooga, Springfield OH, Washington DC, Silver Spring MD, Fort Thomas KY and New York City; from Thomas Cole House, after the close of its 2011 exhibition season: 16 paintings by Robert S. Duncanson (1821-72 ), the African-American artist who was directly inspired by Thomas Cole paintings and who in his lifetime was hailed as “the best landscape painter in the West.” According to an article in The Smithsonian (Lucinda Moore; 10/19/11), the rediscovery of Duncanson as a great artist, after decades of obscurity, began in 1972 with an exhibition in Cincinnati, his home town, then gained momentum by way of several books and articles, and culminated with the Cole House exhibit entitled  “Robert S. Duncanson: The Spiritual Striving of the Freedmen’s Sons.”
That exhibit came on the heels of the 2010 season’s show that brought overdue recognition to female exemplars of  the Hudson River School of landscape painting.   
For the 2012 season, as announced in the forthcoming Cole House newsletter, the special exhibit will feature Louis Remy Mignot (1831-70) the American Creole who "began his professional career in the fold of the Hudson River School (specifically, in the Tenth Street Studio Building), painted in the Andes alongside Frederic Church, and experimented with European aestheticism toward the end of his life."  (
OPENING TOMORROW at the Columbia (SC) Museum of Art: “Nature and the Grand American Vision: Masterpieces of the Hudson River School Painters,” an exhibit sponsored by the New-York Historical Society and starring, of course, Thomas Cole.  The collection’s 45 paintings already have made lengthy stops at museums in Texas and Massachusetts, and next May they will occupy the new Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, where they will share space with “Kindred Spirits,” the Asher B. Durand picture, with Thomas Cole in the foreground, that Alice Walton bought for $35 million.  According to a preview for the Columbus SC showing, the Hudson River paintings “represent the best of a 19th-century New York art movement. That movement’s coterie of artists…gave voice to the American landscape…. The paintings of a newly established country helped establish a cultural identity.” Indeed, they were “the beginning of American art, documenting a land of so much promise and so much untapped beauty.” 

TOURING since September, to libraries and other sites around the country is "Wild Land: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Landscape Painting," a multi-media exhibition sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  "Based on scholarship from Cedar Grove, The Thomas Cole National Historic Site, says the web site, “this emmersive [sic] and interactive exhibit will take the visitor both into the studio and into the woods.”            

OPENING on January 13 in the Louvre--yes, that place in Paris, France--will be a special exhibit of paintings by Thomas Cole and by his contemporary, Asher B. Durand.  And joined with the exhibit will be screenings of "Thomas Cole: Painter of the American Landscape," the film that was made in 2009, at various GreeneLand sites, by Cole House staff members.   

CAMDEN NJ--The works of iconic American landscape artist Thomas Cole are on display at the Stedman Gallery at the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts through Jan. 7.
 “Wild Land:  Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Landscape Painting” explores the works of the 19th-century artist whose visionary ideas on the natural world heralded the sense of American identity that prevails today. The exhibition, which is free of charge and open to the public, takes visitors “into the woods” and through Cole’s studio, revealing the ways in which he, and other artists of his time, pioneered cultural conversations that shaped our national landscape—intellectually, physically, and visually.  
 Through a combination of large-scale banner graphics, immersive environments, media features, and other interactive elements, “Wild Land” takes audiences on a journey with Cole through the story of his creative process. From an itinerant portrait artist to the founder of the Hudson River School, Cole transformed landscape sketches into a new vision of the American wilderness.
 The Rutgers–Camden exhibition also examines how the meaning of nature has changed over time into a source for creative and intellectual inspiration. Visitors will be invited to explore the concept of preservation and how societies come to value and live in balance with natural resources, as well as Cole’s in forging America’s identity as a nation inextricably tied to nature.
 The exhibition includes works by such contemporary American landscape painters as Michael Bartmann,Diane Burko,Daniel Chard, Randall Exon,Ann Lofquist,and Kyle Stevenson.
               --News Bulletin  (11/17/11) from Rutgers University

FORMING: a national council of authorities on American art, especially pre-modern American art, who will serve as friends of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.  A round of telephone calls to luminaries who have previously lectured at or otherwise taken part in Cole House projects yielded, in every case, a positive response: “With pleasure,” “delighted to,” “I’d be honored....”  This from curators and directors of the nation’s foremost museums and from professors of art at the most distinguished universities….  The recruits will be named in the upcoming Cole House newsletter.   

SCENERY “is a subject that to every American ought to be of surpassing interest; for, whether he beholds the Hudson mingling waters with the Atlantic — explores the central wilds of this vast continent, or stands on the margin of the distant Oregon, he is still in the midst of American scenery — it is his own land; its beauty, its magnificence, its sublimity — are all his; and how undeserving of such a birthright, if he can turn towards it an unobserving eye, an unaffected heart.” 
                                                              --Thomas Cole, 1835.

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