Rare exhibition of Hudson River artist on view

Jan. 24, 2007 5 p.m.
The Hudson Valley in Winter Near Olana
El Khasné, Petra

"Treasures From Olana: Landscapes by Frederic Edwin Church," featuring 18 paintings never before exhibited together outside the artist's Hudson Valley estate, will open at the Princeton University Art Museum on Saturday, Jan. 27.

Recognized as a leading member of the important group of American landscape painters known as the Hudson River School, Church (1826-1900) is renowned for majestic landscape paintings rendered with extraordinary precision. Most of the paintings in this exhibition, however, are intimate and more freely rendered oil sketches illustrating Church's favorite domestic landscapes, natural phenomena and exotic travels. These works are selected from Church's personal collection and will be on view through June 10.

Kevin Avery, associate curator for the Department of American Paintings and Sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is the curator for this traveling exhibition, which was organized by the Olana Partnership. The Princeton University Art Museum is the final of six venues for the exhibition, and the show there is being organized by Karl Kusserow, assistant curator of later Western art.

"Perhaps more than any 19th-century American artist, Frederic Edwin Church combined native artistic skill and marketing savvy, coalescing in a culture particularly receptive to his vision, to fashion in the years bracketing the Civil War an enormously successful career -- the material result of which was Olana," said Kusserow, referring to Church's estate and artistic residence that overlooks 250 scenic acres with views of the Catskills and the Hudson River. Church decorated the home himself, designing stencils and furniture to complement objets d’art and furniture collected in the course of his extensive travels.

"The exhibition offers a wonderful opportunity to view works that Church himself especially valued, both for the ways they collectively constructed him as an artist and for their individual qualities as exceptionally beautiful images," Kusserow added.

Clouds Over Olana

In the tradition of academic painting, Church routinely sketched in pencil and oil outdoors and returned to his studio to paint finished landscapes. Church believed in the quality of his smaller works, often showing them in public as finished works alongside his "Great Pictures." The freshness and immediacy of his oil sketches in this exhibition, such as "Clouds Over Olana" and an oil sketch for "Niagara," provide insight into his artistic brilliance, and often relate directly to his more famous works.

Church distinguished himself from conventional Hudson River School artists by portraying foreign landscapes inspired by his journeys to South America, Europe and the Near East, in addition to traditional American romantic landscapes. In "El Khasné, Petra," Church depicts the treasury of the ancient city of Petra, situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea. Also on view is his study for the painting "The Heart of the Andes," which Church once presented to the public (ca. 1858) in a darkened room, dramatically lit by gas lamps and crowned by oversized palm leaves. 

A number of special events, including several lectures, are being planning in connection with the exhibition. For more information, visit the Princeton University Art Museum website.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.