Kingston Offers Fine Introduction to Artist Jervis McEntee

Jervis McEntee (1828-1891) was one of the second generation of Hudson River School artists. Born in Rondout (Kingston), he painted many scenes of Kingston itself (which serve as interesting records of how the town was developing) and of the surrounding countryside, areas that will be especially familiar to anyone who knows present-day Ulster County between Routes 28 and just north of Route 212. In particular, it was a painting entitled Mink Hollow that sparked my interest in wanting to see the exhibit currently on display at The Friends of Historic Kingston (FOHK) Gallery on Wall Street, Kingston (just opposite the historic Dutch Church).

A portion of the exhibit space devoted to McEntee

A portion of the exhibit space devoted to McEntee

Although McEntee traveled farther afield, particularly to areas of New England that were starting to increase in popularity among vacationers as well as artists, most of the paintings in the FOHK exhibit depict the general area of Kingston and the Catskills. Not all the paintings, however, are titled with their exact spots, which raised two questions of personal interest to me: (1) Do any of the paintings with, e.g., the word pond in the title in fact depict Cooper Lake?  (2) Did McEntee paint any scenes from the Esopus Valley villages that were later flooded to make way for the Ashokan Reservoir?

The exhibit space provides ample information about McEntee’s life, including photographs, so that the FOHK have arranged a most admirable introduction to this Hudson River School artist who is not one of the best known (he did apprentice briefly with Frederic E. Church), though he did do an excellent job of depicting scenes in this particular area of the Catskills and their foothills.

I have only one quibble — a minor,personal quibble from someone who dearly loves that area of the world: The exhibit ends

These tombstones are in the yard of the historic Old Dutch Church, across the street from the FOHK Gallery.

These tombstones are in the yard of the historic Old Dutch Church, across the street from the FOHK Gallery.

with McEntee’s painting The Doge’s Palace (Venice), and I couldn’t help wonder what was the motivation behind including it. Stylistically it jars with the other work and (to this paranoid observer, anyhow) it almost seemed an apology that the artist had painted so many scenes of woods and streams in this (then) somewhat obscure area of the New World.

Kudos are due to the Black Dome Press for publishing a superb exhibition catalog, Jervis McEntee: Kingston’s Artist of the Hudson River School. The catalog contains not only beautiful reproductions of all the paintings and other visual material in the exhibit, but also two excellent essays by Lowell Thing and William B. Rhoads, respectively, for those who want to deepen their knowledge still further.

Just up the street, Uptown Coffee is a great place to enjoy a snack or lunch after you've seen the exhibit.

Just up the street, Uptown Coffee is a great place to enjoy a snack or lunch after you’ve seen the exhibit.

The FOHK exhibit of McEntee’s work runs through October 31, 2015. For anyone who still can’t get enough of McEntee’s work, a still larger retrospective will run at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art in nearby New Paltz from August 26 to December 13, 2015. So if you want to have your own McEntee festival, you can plan to see both exhibits on the same day (the Kingston venue is open on Fridays and Saturdays); they’re separated by just one exit on the Thruway. I’m hoping the Dorsky retrospective will include some of McEntee’s paintings of the New England coast.

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Mountaintop Artists Liman and Trautman Shine in Ridgewood

That area of the Northern Catskills known as the Mountaintop is home to heartbreakingly beautiful scenery, gorgeous summer days, inhospitable winters–and an amazingly active colony of artists and crafters. I’ve written about photographer Francis Driscoll in these pages (and will be doing so again) as well as crafter and antiques dealer Cindy Smith. Now, as a lover of the Mountaintop I’m pleased and proud to report on a wonderful exhibit by Mountaintop artists Peter Liman and Sheila Trautman in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

Sheila Trautman poses near her work.

Sheila Trautman poses near her work.

The exhibit is called Oil and Water Do Mix, and Peter (an oil painter) and Sheila (a watercolorist) demonstrate successfully the truth of that statement. Despite their using two different media for their paintings, their work does blend well. I wonder whether it has to do with the sense of place they bring to their work and, with that, their obvious love for the places they paint. Reading the captions to each painting was almost as much of a delight as seeing the paintings themselves. Of course, a number of the paintings depict scenes in the Mountaintop region,

Peter Liman with one of his paintings

Peter Liman with one of his paintings

and I felt privileged to recognize those; perhaps not many in this New Jersey venue could say that.  Bergen County has its own lively arts scene, and, although these two gifted artists are no strangers to the area (Peter is now resident there),  it’s nice to think of the people in northern New Jersey who are seeing Peter and Sheila’s work for the first time.

Oil and Water Do Mix is at The Stable Gallery, 259 North Maple Avenue, Ridgewood, NJ, easily reached off Route 17. The gallery is open Monday to Friday, 9 am to 4 pm, and the exhibit runs until January 31, If you can make it, do get to see it; it’s more than worth it.

Guests at the reception enjoying the art

Guests at the reception enjoying the art

Thomas Cole Site Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

Cedar Grove 1

It’s always a wonderful success story when a cultural landmark gets rescued from oblivion by a group of interested and dedicated people. When the landmark is the former home and studio of one of America’s foremost nineteenth-century landscape painters and has not only been snatched from the demolition crew’s clutches but also been declared a National Historic Site, that’s more than wonderful–it’s a major cause for rejoicing.  And on Sunday September 25 Hudson Valley art lovers were indeed rejoicing as they gathered at Cedar Grove, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, NY, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its opening.

Cedar Grove lawnLandscape artist Thomas Cole (1801-1848), founder of what came to be known as the Hudson River School of art, rented space at Cedar Grove beginning in the early 1830s, and in 1836, with his marriage to Maria Bartow, niece of the owner, it became and remained his permanent home until his all-too-early death in 1848. Visit Cedar Grove and you will readily understand what an inexhaustible fount of inspiration it was for him.  Not for nothing is this site spoken of as “Where American Art Was Born.”

I remember well the progress of the site from virtual ruin to cultural and historic success story. One day a number of years ago, aware that Cedar Grove lay somewhere on the road between the Thruway and the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, my son and I drove up and down and finally asked at a gas station on the corner of Routes 385 and 23–in other words, right across the road (locally named Spring Street) from the site. The attendant had no idea what we were talking about. Parking our car in a nearby side street, we looked around and eventually realized that we were standing right in front of it–only it was covered in scaffolding, and construction machinery lay strewn on the grounds.Cedar Grove lawn 2

What a difference today, when the Thomas Cole National Historic Site is well signposted, it can boast of having had more than 60,000 visitors since Opening Day, and a steady stream of cars brought people to celebrate its tenth anniversary! Entrance to the Main House was free, people enjoyed strolling the grounds, many came to the Visitors Center to take in the film that was being shown, to enjoy the homemade cookes and apple cider, and to purchase books and cards or simply to pick up literature from which to learn more.

Thankfully the weather cooperated, and so outside the Main House as well some dedicated volunteers were talking with visitors and explaining more about Thomas Cole and the site, one lady was teaching a young girl how to paint, and the Milayne Jackson Trio provided musical entertainment from the deck of the Main House.  It was a great day for celebration, not only that the Thomas Cole National Historic Site has become one of the Hudson Valley’s major cultural successes, but also that so many people who were unfamiliar with Cole and his art, attracted by the signs and balloons and other publicity, were visiting and getting acquainted with the founder of the Hudson River School and his legacy. Kudos to Elizabeth Jacks, Director of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, to Marie Spano who has edited a lovely booklet of excerpts from Cole’s writings, and to the corps of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers (including the interns) who bring this place to life.