Thursday, September 5, 2013

City Series: Hudson River Valley: Frederic Church's Estate Olana

Ooh la la...Olana!  I was able to route our day of exploration in the Hudson River Valley to the estate of the famed American painter, Frederic Church.  

My mom has long admired the paintings by the artists of the Hudson River School and she has several beautiful coffee table books on the subject.  In this case, school in Hudson River School is used to describe the style and era, rather than an actual place of study.  While I was in Upstate New York, I heard the phrase "fleet of sloops"  coming through the phone receiver every time I called home.  You see, a relative of mine was the Captain of a fleet of sloops on the Hudson way back when and my mom was trying to peak my interest.

When I asked more questions, I found out that my relatives were from Nyack, much farther south down the Hudson than I would be able to travel on this long weekend.  But I'll be back, armed with a camera and a family tree and I promise to tour the area properly.  

Frederic Church was a prized pupil of the Hudson River School founder, Thomas Cole and they both eventually lived and painted on opposite sides of the Hudson River.  Our enthusiastic guide pointed out Cole's home, which is also a historic site, as we looked at the familiar view from Olana's porch. 
I have a policy of stopping in the gift shop first, whenever I visit a museum or historic site.  You see, I love to buy cards, posters and paper souvenirs at museum gift shops and it only took me "running out of time" once to set this important policy.  Remember when I only had about 8 minutes to shop the store at Windsor Castle?  I showed the teenage clerk what "power shopping" meant! Anyhoo, now I start at the gift shop and always I have plenty of time to explore my options.  This is what I bought at Olana; framable cards of Church's major works. 
I may scan one of these images and then print it on inkjet fabric and make it into a personalized souvenir. Remember how this painting-turned-pillow turned out?  You can shop for postcards from Olana here.

The home, Olana, that Church collaborated on with architects, was heavily influenced by his overseas trip to Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Syria. The Persian-style home includes intricate woodwork, painted glass panels and mosaics.  Church was even known to mix the paint color for the walls himself - creating just the right hue to complete his vision.  His paintings hang in many rooms around the house and are all in place, just where he enjoyed them, during his life. 

Photography is not allowed inside Olana, but I found this official video that talks of his life, inspiration and tours the inside of this famous home.  If you are interested, you should watch this official video created for Olana, a State of New York historic site.
I was able to get a few great photos of Olana's exterior.
And this one of the grand porch, just off of Church's studio, overlooking the Hudson.
 And the same porch, photographed from the outside.
One aspect of Church's work that I wish that I could show you are his sketches. There are few framed upstairs that show the landscape roughed out in pencil, then you can read his writing that says (something to the effect of): "deeper blue here, lighter than sky" or "moss green - A and B" and then you could find the A and B on the sketch, as if Church was building his own paint-by-number. I had never seen an artist's sketch like that, have you?
I am so lucky to have had a chance to go on a guided tour of Frederic Church's Olana and then wander his gardens on the estate.
While living at Olana, Church had the property planted with thousands of trees and plants to create a lush landscape to paint.  It is an inspirational estate.

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