The Catskills Feature

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Hudson River School

The Hudson River School—the name given to a group of New York landscape painters that flourished from about 1850 until the 1870s—was the nation's first brotherhood of artists. Thomas Cole is regarded as the school's father; others prominent in the movement included Frederic Edwin Church, Asher B. Durand, Jasper Cropsey, and Sanford Gifford.

You can see the Catskill views that provided inspiration for these artists by following the Hudson River School Art Trail. The driving tour features seven stops. The first (and main) site is the former home of Thomas Cole, who settled in 1825 in the town of Catskill, a ferry stop on the Hudson River. The mountain vistas that captured Cole's attention are still visible from the wraparound porch of his home, Cedar Grove, now part of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site (218 Spring St., Catskill 12414 518/943-7465 www.thomascole.org Free). Meticulously restored by a consortium of government and private interests, Cedar Grove's main house and separate studio are open daily from the first Saturday in May through the last Sunday in October. Guided tours are offered from 10 to 4 on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Maps for the art trail can be picked up at the historic site.

Another stop on the trail is Olana (5720 State Rte. 9G, Hudson 12543 518/828–0135 www.Olana.org House tours $9, call for reservations), the home of Frederic Edwin Church, a Cole student. A gifted draftsman and a colorist, Church traveled widely and collected materials throughout New York and New England, particularly Vermont. From Olana, Church set a pattern of travel, hiking, and sketching from spring through autumn, spending winters in New York painting and socializing. A mansion in its own style, Olana rises from the hillside on the eastern shore of the Hudson overlooking the Catskill village landing. The grounds are open 8 am–sunset throughout the year. During peak periods, there's a $5 charge per vehicle. House tours are offered Wednesday through Sunday and holiday Mondays. Grounds maps for walking and hiking are available at the visitor center.

Other stops on the Hudson River School Art Trail bring you to the breathtaking vistas that provided so much inspiration—Kaaterskill Falls, Kaaterskill Creek, and the site of the Catskill Mountain House, a premier resort of the 1800s made famous by Washington Irving and visited often by Cole because of its vistas. Most sites are within 15 mi of Catskill.

To see paintings by Hudson River School artists, visit the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica.

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