Frederic Edwin Church’s Maine Landscapes on View at Olana

Frederic E. Church, Sunset, Bar Harbor, detail, c. September 1854, oil on paper mounted on canvas, 10 1/8 x 17 ¼ in., OL.1981.72.  Collection of Olana State Historic Site.

Frederic E. Church, Sunset, Bar Harbor, detail, c. September 1854, oil on paper mounted on canvas, 10 1/8 x 17 ¼ in., OL.1981.72. Collection of Olana State Historic Site.

(HUDSON, N.Y.) – While Frederic Edwin Church is enshrined at his former home and studio, Olana, and best known as one of the leaders of the Hudson River School of painting, he did not only paint here, nor was his only subject the Hudson Valley, as can be seen in a new exhibition, Maine Sublime: Frederic Edwin Church’s Landscapes of Mount Desert and Mount Katahdin, which opens at Olana on Sunday, June 9, 2013. The exhibition explores the half-century during which famed American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) traveled to and was inspired by the landscapes of Maine.

Maine Sublime includes 10 oil and 13 pencil sketches from the Olana collection that celebrate the glories of Maine scenery. Many will be on public view for the first time, including the vibrant plein-air sketch Wood Interior near Mount Katahdin, c. 1877.  Loans of 4 important works from the Portland Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and private collections will augment the sketches from Olana. The early and spectacular Newport Mountain from Mount Desert, 1851 from the National Gallery of Art depicting nature’s more awesome character in the turbulent surf and looming mountain will be displayed alongside the related sketch, also from the National Gallery of Art, Fog off Mount Desert, 1850.

The artist first journeyed to Maine in the summer of 1850 spending six weeks on Mount Desert exploring the coast, its rocky Islands, and peaceful harbors.  He sketched the scenery which he described as “magnificent both land and seaward,” capturing the splendid sky effects in Sunset Bar Harbor, 1854. In 1852 he trekked inland focusing on the area of Mount Katahdin.  Over the next decades Church continued to visit Maine capturing sensational sunsets, robust crashing waves, impressive peaks, and an abundance of wilderness.

Organized by renowned curator, art historian and professor of American Art John Wilmerding, and presented by The Olana Partnership and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Maine Sublime will be on view in the Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery at Olana through the end of October. On Saturday, June 8, Wilmerding, who wrote the essay for the exhibition catalogue, will give a curator’s lecture at an Olana Partnership members’ event.

Wilmerding’s analysis of the paintings inspired by Maine reveals Church as both a public and private artist.  “The work done in Maine during the 1850s and early 1860s, primarily at Mount Desert, embodied sentiments of increasing national strife, in symbolic and suggestive ways, while the career of the later 1860s and 1870s was devoted more to his personal time in inland Maine around Mount Katahdin,” explains Wilmerding.  Featured in the exhibition is Twilight, A Sketch, 1858 the study for Church’s great masterpiece Twilight in the Wilderness, 1860 (Cleveland Museum of Art), which reflects the tensions surrounding the impending Civil War.  Mount Katahdin from Millinocket Camp, 1895 on loan from the Portland Museum was the artist’s last major Maine canvas and a birthday gift to his wife —  a work of great personal significance that both enhances the exhibition and directly relates  to the artist’s life at Olana.

“It is through exhibits like these that we gain an ever richer understanding of Frederic Church as a traveler, observer and artist,” stated Partnership president Sara Griffen.  “This is central to The Olana Partnership’s mission to educate the public about Church’s genius, through his melding of art, architecture, landscape, farm and views into what many call his greatest work of art, Olana.”

The Maine material presented in the exhibition ranges from finished oil sketches that Church displayed in his home to pencil sketches and cartoons that he stored in portfolios and shared with friends, fellow artists and guests.  A delightful pencil rendering of the newly married artist and his wife enjoying the bracing coastal winds on one of their first trips to Maine, will be give visitors a glimpse of Church’s witty nature.

The exhibition is accompanied by a full color catalogue co-published by Cornell University Press and The Olana Partnership under the Olana Collection imprint and will illustrate additional paintings from museums and private collections. Poet, translator, art critic, editor, and curator Vincent Katz penned the Introduction. Katz has collaborated on books with artists Alex Katz, Rudy Burckhardt, and James Brown. He writes frequently on contemporary art and has published essays on the work of Francesco Clemente, Jim Dine, Kiki Smith, Philip Taaffe, and Cy Twombly.

Maine Sublime: Frederic Edwin Church’s Landscapes of Mount Desert and Mount Katahdin was on view at the Portland Museum of Art during the summer of 2012. The exhibition will travel to The Cleveland Museum of Art where it will be on view through the summer of 2014.

Olana is located at 5720 Route 9G in Hudson, NY. The grounds are open every day from 8 a.m. until sunset; guided house tours (reservations recommended) are available Tuesday through Sunday and holiday Mondays, May through October, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and include access to the Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery; the last tour starts promptly at 4 p.m. Special gallery only tours will be available Saturdays June 15- October 26 on the hour from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. For reservations and information call (518) 828-0135 or visit Olana.

The eminent Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) designed Olana, his family home, studio, and estate as an integrated environment embracing architecture, art, and landscape. Considered one of the most important artistic residences in the United States, Olana is a landmark of picturesque landscape gardening with a Persian-inspired house at its summit, embracing unrivaled panoramic views of the vast Hudson Valley.

Olana State Historic Site, an historic sites administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Taconic Region, is a designated National Historic Landmark and one of the most visited sites in the state. The Olana Partnership, a private not-for-profit education corporation, works cooperatively with New York State to support the restoration, development and improvement of Olana State Historic Site.




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