PODCAST: Two landmarks to American art history sit on either side of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge over the Hudson River — the homes of visionary artists Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church.
Cole and Church were leaders of the Hudson River School, a collective of 19th century American painters captivated by natural beauty and wide-open spaces. Many of these paintings, often of a massive size, depicted fantastic views of the Hudson River Valley where many of the artists lived.
In this episode, the final part of the Bowery Boys podcast mini-series Road Trip to the Hudson Valley, Greg and Tom head up to the historic towns of Catskill and Hudson to celebrate a pioneering artist and his star pupil, two men who transformed the way we look at nature and revolutionized American art.
The Hudson River School painters were philosophers and environmentalists, romanticizing a disappearing wilderness being consumed by rapid industrial growth and American expansion.
Cole found his initial inspiration in the Catskill Mountains, sketching sunrises and returning to his cramped New York City studio to paint. Eventually he moved to Catskill into a crowded home — today the Thomas Cole National Historic Site — and here captured dozens of fantastic, captivating worlds on canvas.
Across the river sits the Olana State Historic Site, the former estate of Church, who became America’s most famous painter in the mid 19th century. He expanded his worldview beyond New York; the fruits of his South American travels — his classic The Heart of the Andes — would draw thousands of awestruck, fainting crowds.
But in the end, his greatest work might be Olana itself, its manicured hills and graceful carriage roads designed to show off the maximum beauty of the Hudson River Valley.
Listen Now: The Hudson River School
For more information visit the websites for the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and the Olana State Historic Site. You can also discover the natural places featured in many famous paintings by hiking the Hudson River School Art Trail.
A View of the Two Lakes and Mountain House, Catskill Mountains, Morning (1844)
On Catskill Creek (1845-47)
Catskill Mountain Home: The Four Elements (1843 – 1844)
The Voyage of Life: Childhood (1842)
The Voyage of Life: Manhood (1842)
All 2022 photographs taken by Greg Young unless indicated otherwise.
This wall pattern is from the 1830s/40s and NOT the 1960s.
The Rip Van Winkle Bridge (with pedestrian skybridge)
(And speaking of bridges, swing into the town of Catskill to catch this beauty — an 1882 railway bridge).
Frederic Edwin Church
The Heart of the Andes (1859)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
View of the Hudson River Valley from Olana (1867)
The Meteor of 1860 (1860)
Images of Olana State Historic Site. Photos by Greg Young
A photo from Whitecliff Vineyard which sits on the site of a 19th century farm. The path from Olana to the ferry ran by this site.
After listening to this episode on the Hudson River School, jump back into these earlier Bowery Boys Podcasts which discuss similar themes or situations from the show:
1) Listen to part one of the Road Trip to the Hudson Valley, featuring the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail:
2) And in part two of this mini-series, we looked at the lives of the Roosevelts at their home in Hyde Park:
3) Frederick Law Olmsted and the creation of Central Park play a minor role in this week’s show
4) A very different set of painters feature in the tale of the Armory Show of 1913
5) … and the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a great place to look at Hudson River School paintings. Frederic Church was even one of the founding trustees!
American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School / Metropolitan Museum of Art
American Wilderness: The Story of the Hudson River School of Painting / Barbara Babcock Millhouse
Charmed Places: Hudson River Artists and Their Houses, Studios and Vistas / conceived by Sandra S. Phillips
Frederic Church / John K Howat
Frederic Church’s Olana on the Hudson / photographs by Larry Lederman
The Life and Times of Asher B. Durand / John Durand
The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!
We are producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every other week. We’re also looking to improve and expand the show in other ways — publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media. But we can only do this with your help!
We are creators on Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators.
Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans. If you’d like to help out, there are several different pledge levels. Check them out and consider being a sponsor.
We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far.