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Famous Hudson River School painter Thomas Cole takes global presence; Thomas Cole House celebrates with an extended season

The Thomas Cole House at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site on Spring Street in Catskill.
September 26, 2017 11:30 pm

CATSKILL — Thomas Cole National Historic Site leaders will extend the 2017 season to celebrate recent attendance growth and plan to have the famed artist as the subject of two major exhibitions.

Organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the National Gallery in London, Cole will be the highlight of an exhibit to take place in 2018 titled “Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings.”

The exhibition will take place at the Met on Fifth Avenue from Jan. 30 to May 13 and at the National Gallery from June 11 to Oct. 7.

Curating the exhibit is Elizabeth Kornhauser; Alice Pratt Brown, curator of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Met; Tim Barringer; Paul Mellon, professor of Art History at Yale University; and Christopher Riopelle, curator of Post 1800 Paintings at the National Gallery.

The Met’s overview of the exhibition on their website is as follows: “This exhibition will establish Thomas Cole as a major artist of the 19th century within a global context. The artist’s most iconic works, including “The Oxbow” (1836) and his five-part series “The Course of Empire” (1834–36) will be presented for the first time as a direct outcome of his transatlantic career. Consummate works by J.M.W. Turner and John Constable, among others, will reveal Cole’s engagement with European art, while masterworks by Asher B. Durand and Frederic E. Church will demonstrate Cole’s extraordinary legacy in establishing a school of 19th-century landscape art in America.”

Kornhauser is the previous curator of the Wadsworth Atheneum Art Museum in Hartford, Connecticut, which was founded by Thomas Cole’s leading patron, Daniel Wadsworth.

Wadsworth commissioned a whole Hudson River School series of paintings, resulting in one of the largest collections in the world.

“I’ve worked on Cole for a large part of my career — I became fascinated with him,” Kornhauser said. “There are hardly any shows on Cole, the last major show was in 1994 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.”

Today’s world just began to explore Cole’s role as a “proto-environmentalist,” Kornhauser said. Cole was very aware of destruction of the wilderness and rallied against it in his writings and paintings.

The Met has one of the greatest collections of Hudson River paintings in the world. The museum owns Thomas Cole’s most famous painting, “The Oxbow,” which they used as an inspiration for the upcoming exhibition.

The exhibit also explores the origin of Thomas Cole and his childhood in industrial England, which helped shape his philosophy about landscape art.

“This is the first time he’s being put on an international stage — which rarely happens for Hudson River School painters,” Kornhauser said. “I think he’s going to have his big moment with this exhibition.”

The Thomas Cole Historic Site will hold its 12th annual Raymond Beecher Memorial Lecture in celebration and anticipation of the exhibition.

This year, the event will be held Oct. 24 at a private venue on East 77th St. in New York City from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Presenting the lecture is co-curator Kornhauser. Kornhauser will offer a special preview of the groundbreaking international exhibition of Cole’s work that will open at the Met in January 2018.

The lecture and reception are hosted by the Thomas Cole Historic Site Board of Trustees and Connie Simmons and James Krugman.

Tickets are available in advance at the Thomas Cole website and will not be sold at the door.

The 2017 season for the Thomas Cole National Historic Site was originally scheduled to run through October.

But it was extended to include the first three weekends in November as an addition to a successful overall season.

Attendance has risen 25 percent at the Thomas Cole House over last year, according to site officials.

This year was also the first time in the site’s history that four exhibitions ran simultaneously in addition to its permanent collection.

The four exhibitions are “Sanford R. Gifford in the Catskills,” an exhibition in the New Studio, curated by Kevin J. Avery; Kiki Smith’s “From the Creek,” an installation inside and outside the historic rooms of Cole’s home, created by the artist and curated by Kate Menconeri; “The Parlors,” an experience combining technology and restoration of Cole’s interior designs in his 1815 home, including the earliest-known interior decorative painting by an American artist; and “Mind Upon Nature: Thomas Cole’s Creative Process,” an exhibition in the Main House featuring Cole’s paintings and sketches.

All exhibitions were extended to run through Nov. 19 except for “Sanford R. Gifford in the Catskills,” which closes Oct. 29.

To reach reporter Anthony Fiducia, call 518-828-1616, ext. 2309, or email