Guide Book

Use this guide as a resource to explore the many spaces on site.

This abbreviated web version of the Guide Book will lead you from space to space. Start scrolling to experience the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

A printed copy of the Guide Book is available in our gift shop and online, here.

Thomas Cole lived here with his family. Through his art and writing he advocated for the preservation of the landscape. His paintings inspired the first major art movement of the U.S., known as the Hudson River School.

Objects to Touch, Chairs for Sitting

You will see both historic objects and reproduction items. While the historic objects should not be touched, the reproduction items can be! Look for green dots – these are items we encourage you to touch. Please handle only the items with green dots, for even the slightest oils from our hands will harm historic objects.

Enjoy your visit!

– NEXT –

Scroll down for a quick overview of the Site’s rotating exhibitions.

EXHIBITIONS

Our Exhibition Types:

Inside the New Studio:

Each year we invite a curator to bring a new perspective to Thomas Cole’s work by creating an exhibition inside the New Studio. The exhibitions bring together artwork from museums and private collections across the country.

OPEN HOUSE: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole:

A series of curated contemporary artist installations located within, and in response to, the historic home and studios of Thomas Cole. 

Mind Upon Nature:
Thomas Cole’s Creative Process
:

An exhibition in the Main House featuring original paintings, sketches, and artifacts.

This Year’s Exhibitions

– FIRST STOP –

Exit the Visitor Center and take the path on your right to the New Studio. Or, you may visit spaces in any order you wish!

NEW STUDIO

The family of Maria Bartow (1813-1884), who married Thomas Cole, owned the majority of the property that now bears the artist’s name. From them, Thomas purchased the plot of land for this building and designed what he called his “New Studio.” It was built in 1846 and Thomas worked there until his death in 1848. The original building was torn down in 1973 before the site became a museum. We reconstructed it in 2015 with a state of the art museum gallery inside.  

Emily Cole

Emily Cole (1843-1913) was a professional artist and one of Maria and Thomas’s children. She used this space as a studio and gallery. When you enter the Main House, look for her painted porcelains and watercolors. Emily lived here her whole life and made a living selling her art.

About the New Studio

– NEXT STOP –

Exit the New Studio to explore the Grounds.

GROUNDS & PROPERTY

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is on the ancestral lands of the Mohawk and other Haudenosaunee peoples, and the Mohican, Lenape, and other Algonquian-speaking peoples. It was taken from them by a series of treaties and forced displacements in the seventeenth through eighteenth centuries.

A family by the name of Thomson bought property here in 1787. Three Thomson siblings (Thomas, John A., and Catherine) began the establishment of a homestead by 1814. In the years that followed, many people have nurtured this land. During Thomas Cole’s residency, (1836-48), the property consisted of 110 acres. A salaried farmer, domestic laborers, and gardeners tended and maintained the plants and animals, and protected the property and structures. 

  About the Grounds & Property

– NEXT STOP –

Head to the Main House.

MAIN HOUSE

The Main House was constructed in 1815 by a group that likely included enslaved laborers. The 1817 census includes two enslaved persons and two free Black persons as part of the household. The Thomsons enslaved people from at least 1790 until through at least 1818.

Thomas Cole moved into this house upon his marriage into the Thomson family (1836). During his time here, the number of residents ranged from 11-14, and included a free Black woman recorded on the 1840 census. This household of people acted as a support system to Thomas, enabling him to produce his artwork and support the household with his earnings. 

After John A. Thomson passed away (1846), ownership of the property passed to Emily Bartow (1804-1881). As a woman, she was able to own property only because she was not married. Thomas Cole never owned the house. 

About the Household
                                   

About the Main House

– NEXT STOP –

Walk onto the Porch of the Main House.

PORCH

Thomas moved to America with his family in 1818 at age seventeen. He grew up in northern England – then the biggest hub for industrialization in the world. There, he saw firsthand how factories took over the countryside of his hometown. In the 1830s, he was alarmed to see a similar transformation taking place here in Catskill.

Thomas first came to this area by traveling up the Hudson River in 1825. He returned often and made his permanent home here in 1836, when he married Maria Bartow (niece to the Thomsons).

This view of the mountains is one that Thomas painted often, but the landscape was changing. By 1836, there were over sixty mills, factories, foundries, and leather tanneries stretching west into the mountains. An early railroad crossed through in the 1830s, and hillsides were being clear-cut for the tanning industry.

Inside the house, you will discover Thomas’s thoughts on industrial changes to the land.

– NEXT –

Enter the House through the front door.

ENTRY HALL

Maria Bartow (1813-1884) lived here with her sisters, cousin, uncle, and hired laborers. They came to know Thomas Cole when he first rented their small cottage (no longer standing) as a studio space. Maria married Thomas in 1836, at which time he moved in. Together the couple had five children and shared this home with Maria’s family and household staff. Check out the 1840 federal census (reproduced nearby) showing a household of 11 people.

When Thomas moved in he began redesigning the first floor interiors. He painted decorative borders onto the walls in several rooms, and selected colors, textiles, and finishes, many of which have been recently restored or recreated.

– NEXT STOP –

Enter the green parlor.

EAST PARLOR

Thomas wrote essays, poems, letters, and kept journals. Fortunately, many survive. Ask a staff member to show you the presentation created with Thomas’s writings and paintings. We invite you to take a seat and listen as he tells his story. 

Read the Audio Transcription

“Wild?”

Thomas often described scenery in the area as “wild.” Though, indigenous people had inhabited this area for thousands of years, and many were still present along the east coast in the early nineteenth century. By depicting American landscapes as uninhabited, or showing solitary indigenous figures, Thomas Cole and other painters and writers contributed to the creation of fictions about American land: that indigenous people were either never here, or if they were, they had departed long ago. These myths became legend, and served to reinforce the government’s intended erasure of indigenous culture, and the histories of the land.

– NEXT STOP –

Exit and turn right into the red room.

LIBRARY

Near the ceiling is the exposed border that Thomas hand-painted nearly two hundred years ago. These original paintings (as well as others on this floor) were hidden beneath many layers of modern paint before they were discovered in 2014 by a paint analyst.

In Thomas’s time, a library was a space dedicated to expanding the mind, and likely featured art as well as books. Red-and-black Pompeiian designs and color schemes were associated in the 1830s with the display of art, suggesting that this room served as Cole’s art gallery.

– NEXT STOP –

Exit and turn into the parlor to your right.

WEST PARLOR

Here, Thomas and the family visited with patrons, friends, and fellow artists. It was a space full of conversation, where the business of art was conducted, and where Thomas expressed his personal opinions about landscape art.

On tabletops around the room you will find four different stories told through letters. These conversations about art and business raise questions that we still grapple with today.

– NEXT STOP –

Head upstairs to explore the family’s more private rooms of the house. Once upstairs, follow the railing to the Bedroom.

MARIA & THOMAS’S BEDROOM

Maria and Thomas frequently exchanged letters while he travelled. Explore the room to find them.

– NEXT STOP –

Exit and turn into the room on your left.

MIND UPON NATURE: THOMAS COLE’S CREATIVE PROCESS

Here, we encourage you to explore Thomas’s working process and ideas. You will find an array of sketches and paintings, the books and objects that inspired him, and the pigments and materials he used to create his paintings. This exhibition is refreshed annually and highlights original objects and artwork from the museum collection and major works on long-term loan.

Original Use of the Room

Maria’s sisters shared this space as a bedroom. Her eldest sister, Emily, was head of household after their uncle died. Harriet was a teacher, and tended the flower garden outside. The youngest sister, Frances, spent time in the Hartford Retreat for the Insane, the first hospital in the United States to employ “moral treatment” for individuals with mental illnesses. No personal records of hers have yet been found.

– NEXT STOP –

Enter the Sitting Room across the hall.

SITTING ROOM

Thomas was troubled by the political climate of the U.S., which he suspected was headed toward a major internal conflict. The Jacksonian Era of his time was marked by an authoritarian president, many political parties, expansion westward, reform movements, debates about slavery, and the Trail of Tears.

Thomas lamented that when it came to art, people wanted “things, not thoughts.” He wanted to make art that made people think critically. In the 1840s he drafted “Lecture on Art,” in which he articulates his thoughts about how art could help to create an improved world.

As you explore the newspaper clippings, letters, and essays on the table and desk, you will hear from Thomas about his ambitions and the political climate of his era.

Major Events Happening in Thomas’s Lifetime.

Read the Audio Transcription

Sarah Cole

Sarah Cole was a professional artist known as one of the first female printmakers in the country. In this room are two of her paintings depicting the English countryside. Sarah also counseled her brother, Thomas, during moments of doubt.

– NEXT STOP –

Head into the adjoining room. Ask a staff member to play the presentation.

HOUSE STUDIO

This room was Thomas’s first studio upon moving in. Maria was often with him, reading to him while he painted and offering advice. Thomas once wrote to her, “But how can I paint without you with me to praise or to criticize?” In her journal, Maria recorded: “a volume of Scot in my hand to read to T. who was painting the Sky of his Compagna Scene.” (April 6, 1843).

It was here that Thomas painted View of Schroon Mountain, Essex County, New York, After a Storm. Ask a staff member to play the presentation. We invite you to dive into Thomas’s creative process by joining him on his journey to the Adirondack mountains. Maria and Thomas’s writings about this trip (reproductions nearby) enabled us to retrace their steps. 

Read the Audio Transcription

– NEXT STOP –

Scroll down for more about this painting.

Creating A View of Schroon Mountain

Thomas placed several indigenous figures into this painting (two in the foreground, and several in the distance) – a departure from his more common inclusion of solitary figures.

In July of 1837 the Coles travelled to Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks. On their way they stopped in Albany to see the artist George Catlin and his “Indian Gallery” – a touring exhibition of hundreds of paintings depicting figures and customs of indigenous people, whose aggressive removal was legally sanctioned by President Jackson’s “Indian Removal Act” of 1830.

The following year, when Thomas finished this painting, one of the culminating events of the Indian Removal Act occurred. The U.S. government sent troops to violently evict all indigenous nations remaining east of the Mississippi River – particularly the Cherokee. They were forced on a deadly 1,200 mile walk west. Families were separated, and many died from sickness or starvation. It came to be known as the “Trail of Tears.”

– NEXT STOP –

Leave the house and walk back to the Visitor Center to enter Thomas’s studio where he painted for seven years.

OLD STUDIO

It was here that Thomas painted many of his major works, including The Voyage of Life, a series of four paintings that explore the stages of life. A reproduction of one of them, Childhood, is displayed on his original easel. This series illustrates Thomas’s wish to create paintings that combine landscape with narrative elements to convey ideas about humanity – what he termed a “higher style of landscape.”

Thomas worked here until 1846, at which time he moved into his “New Studio.”

About the Old Studio

– NEXT STOP –

Return to the Visitor Center to browse our selection of Thomas Cole-inspired items. If you’re looking for nearby walks, lunch spots in the village, or even Thomas’s burial site, we can help.

 

Images:

Exhibition installation, Thomas Cole’s Refrain: The Paintings of Catskill Creek, 2019, © Peter AaronOTTO

Exhibition installation, SPECTRUM, 2018, © Peter AaronOTTO

New Studio © Peter AaronOTTO

Main House, Photo by Rachel Stults

Entry Hall © Peter AaronOTTO

East Parlor © Peter AaronOTTO

Library Gallery © Peter AaronOTTO

West Parlor © Peter AaronOTTO

Bedroom © Peter AaronOTTO

Sitting Room © Peter AaronOTTO

House Studio © Peter AaronOTTO

Old Studio, Photo by Devin Pickering

Old Studio, Interior © Peter AaronOTTO

Heather ParoubekGuide Book

Guide Book

Welcome to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site – the home and studios where the artist and early environmentalist Thomas Cole (1801-1848) lived and worked from 1836 until his death in 1848.

Thomas advocated for the preservation of the landscape through his art and writing, and his iconic landscape paintings inspired the first major art movement of the United States, now known as the Hudson River School.

Use this guide as a resource to explore the many spaces on site.

This web version of the Guide Book will lead you through the site, space by space. Start scrolling to experience the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

A printed copy of the Guide Book is available in our gift shop and online, here.

Objects to Touch, Chairs for Sitting

You will see both historic objects and reproduction items. While the historic objects should not be touched, the reproduction items can be! Look for green dots – these are items we encourage you to touch. Please handle only the items with green dots, for even the slightest oils from our hands will harm historic objects.

Enjoy your visit!

– NEXT –

Scroll down for a quick overview of the Site’s rotating exhibitions.

EXHIBITIONS

Inside the New Studio:

Each year the Thomas Cole National Historic Site invites a guest curator to bring a new perspective to Thomas Cole’s work by creating a new exhibition in Thomas Cole’s reconstructed New Studio. The exhibitions bring together artwork from museums and private collections across the country.

OPEN HOUSE: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole:

An annual series of curated contemporary artist installations located within, and in response to, the historic home and studios of artist Thomas Cole. 

Mind Upon Nature: Thomas Cole’s Creative Process:

An exhibition in the Main House featuring original Thomas Cole paintings, sketches, and artifacts.

This Year’s Exhibitions

– FIRST STOP –

Exit the Visitor Center and take the path on your right to the New Studio. Or, you may visit spaces in any order you wish!

NEW STUDIO

The family of Maria Bartow (1813-1884), who married Thomas Cole, owned the majority of the property that now bears the artists name. From them, Thomas purchased the plot of land for this building and designed what he called his “New Studio.” It was built in 1846 and Thomas worked there until his death in 1848. The original building was torn down in 1973 before the site became a museum. We reconstructed it in 2015 with a state of the art museum gallery inside.  

When Thomas died suddenly at the age of 47, he left behind a studio filled with artwork and boundless unfulfilled potential. Maria preserved the space as he left it and welcomed other artists to visit. In this way, his art and ideas continued to inspire and influence the next generation of artists and the evolution of art in the United States.

Emily Cole

Emily Cole (1843-1913) was a professional artist and one of Maria and Thomas’s children. Emily used this space as her own studio and exhibition gallery. She was just five years old when her father passed away and grew to share her father’s focus on nature in her artistic practice. When you enter the Main House, look for her painted porcelains and watercolors. Emily lived here her whole life and made a living selling her art.

About the New Studio

– NEXT STOP –

Exit the New Studio to explore the Grounds.

GROUNDS & PROPERTY

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is on the ancestral lands of the Mohawk and other Haudenosaunee peoples, and the Mohican, Lenape, and other Algonquian-speaking peoples. It was taken from them by a series of treaties and forced displacements in the seventeenth through eighteenth centuries.

A family by the name of Thomson bought property here in 1787. Three Thomson siblings (Thomas, John A., and Catherine) began the establishment of a homestead by 1814. In the years that followed, many people have nurtured this land. During Thomas Cole’s residency, (1836-48), the property consisted of 110 acres. A salaried farmer, domestic laborers, and gardeners tended and maintained the plants and animals, and protected the property and structures. Saleable crops were grown (hay, oats, corn, and barley), and a variety of livestock were kept (horses, pigs, goats, oxen, beef cattle and chickens). The main source of income was fruit from the orchards.

If you’d like, borrow a sketchbook from stations around the site and take inspiration from nature just like Thomas Cole, Emily Cole, and many other visitors have done.

Honey Locust Tree

The large tree with sharp thorns in front of the Main House was planted in 1817, even before Thomas Cole came to live and work here. When you enter the house, look for a small painting that shows this same tree.

Greening

As we work to restore and maintain the grounds of this historic site, we are guided by principles of supporting biodiversity, reducing the use of toxic materials, and connecting people to the natural world.

About our Greening Initiative

  About the Grounds & Property

– NEXT STOP –

Head to the Main House (yellow, with large porch).

MAIN HOUSE

The Main House was constructed in 1815 by a group that very likely included enslaved laborers. The 1817 census includes two enslaved persons and two free Black persons as part of the household. The Thomsons enslaved people from at least 1790 until through at least 1818.

Thomas Cole moved into this house after he married into the Thomson family in 1836. During his time here, the number of residents at the property ranged from 11-14, and this included a free Black woman recorded on the 1840 census. This household of people acted as a support system to Thomas, enabling him to produce his artwork and support the household with his earnings. 

After John A. Thomson passed away in 1846, ownership of the property passed to Emily Bartow (1804-1881). As a woman, she was only able to own property because she was not married. Thomas Cole never owned the house himself. 

Who Was Living Here During Thomas Cole’s Residency?

Maria Bartow Cole, Harriet Bartow, Emily C. Bartow, Frances E. Bartow, Frederic Church, Thomas Cole, Theodore A. Cole, Mary B. Cole, Emily Cole, Elizabeth Cole, Sarah Cole, Egbert, David E., Martin, Mary, Benjamin McConkey, Peter, John A. Thomson, Charlotte Thomson, free Black woman recorded (without a name) on the 1840 census (age 55-99), Jonny W., and Mr. Whitbeck.

About the Household
                                   

About the Main House

– NEXT STOP –

Walk onto the Porch of the Main House.

PORCH

Thomas moved to America with his family in 1818 at age seventeen. He grew up in northern England – then the biggest hub for industrialization in the world. There, he saw firsthand how factories and smokestacks took over the countryside of his hometown. In the 1830s, he was alarmed to see a similar transformation taking place here in Catskill.

Thomas first came to this area by traveling up the Hudson River in 1825. He returned often and later made his permanent home here in 1836, upon his marriage to Maria Bartow (niece to the Thomsons).

This view of the mountains is one that Thomas painted many times, but this landscape was changing rapidly. A large hotel – the Catskill Mountain House – opened in 1824, drawing crowds of tourists. By 1836, there were over sixty mills, factories, foundries, and leather tanneries stretching west into the mountains. An early railroad crossed through in the 1830s, and hillsides were being clear-cut for the tanning industry.

Inside the house, you will discover Thomas’s thoughts on industrial changes to the land.

Differing Perspectives on Land

The copper-hearted barbarians are cutting all the trees down in the beautiful valley on which I have looked so often with a loving eye.
(Thomas Cole to Luman Reed, March 6, 1836)

With these immense avenues for trade […] the town of Catskill is destined to increase in wealth and population with great rapidity.
(Catskill Association formed for the Purpose of Improving the Town of Catskill, 1837)

– NEXT –

Enter the House through the front door.

ENTRY HALL

Maria Bartow (1813-1884) lived here with her sisters, cousin, uncle, and hired laborers. They came to know Thomas Cole when he first rented their small cottage (no longer standing) as a studio space. Maria married Thomas in 1836, at which time he moved in. Together the couple had five children and shared this home with Maria’s family and household staff. Check out the 1840 federal census showing a household of 11 people, reproduced nearby.

When Thomas moved in he began to redesign the interiors. He painted decorative borders onto the walls in several rooms, and selected colors, textiles, and finishes throughout the first floor, many of which have been recently restored or recreated.

Floor Cloth

This floor covering is a piece of cotton canvas that has been hand-painted and coated with layers of varnish. It was a popular feature in the nineteenth century because it was inexpensive and easy to clean. The example here is a recreation of an historic design. Thomas grew up working in the decorative arts and at one time painted floor cloths for his father’s business.

Don’t Miss the Top Hat

Thomas wore a top hat because he wanted to present himself as part of the upper class, but always struggled with bringing in enough revenue to support the household.

 

– NEXT STOP –

Enter the green parlor to hear from Thomas about his experience of living in Catskill, his ambitions, and his sentiments.

EAST PARLOR

Thomas wrote essays, poems, letters, and kept journals. Fortunately, many of them survive. Ask a staff member to show you the presentation, created using Thomas’s writings and paintings. We invite you to take a seat and listen as he tells his story. 

Read the Audio Transcription

“Wild?”

Thomas often described scenery in the area as “wild.” Though, indigenous people had inhabited this area for thousands of years, and many were still present along the east coast in the early nineteenth century. By depicting American landscapes as uninhabited, or showing solitary indigenous figures, Thomas Cole and other painters and writers contributed to the creation of fictions about American land: that indigenous people were either never here, or if they were, they had departed long ago. These myths became legend, and served to reinforce the government’s intended erasure of indigenous culture, and the histories of the land.

Paintings

All of the paintings on the first floor are reproductions, carefully selected based on what was here in Thomas’s time, and for what they tell us about his vision. You will see original paintings on the second floor.

Don’t Miss the Chair

The upholstered chair with bookstand and candle holder belonged to Maria’s uncle, John A. Thomson. He initiated the building of the house with his brother in 1814, and lived here with many relatives and laborers until his death.

 

– NEXT STOP –

Exit this room and turn right into the red room down the hall.

LIBRARY

In Thomas’s time, a library was a space dedicated to expanding the mind, and likely featured art as well as books. Red-and-black Pompeiian designs and color schemes were associated in the 1830s with the display of art, suggesting that this room served as Cole’s art gallery.

The Latest Style

The wall color and border design that Thomas chose for this room were likely inspired by his trip to the ancient ruins of Pompeii, and from seeing fashionable Pompeian-inspired rooms, and the artist J.M.W. Turner’s red-walled gallery during his trip to London.

Don’t Miss the Painted Border

Near the ceiling is the exposed border that Thomas hand-painted nearly two hundred years ago. These original paintings (as well as others on this floor) were hidden beneath many layers of modern paint before they were discovered in 2014 by a paint analyst.

 

– NEXT STOP –

Exit this room and turn into the parlor to your right to experience some of the challenges, ideas, and relationships in Thomas’s career.

WEST PARLOR

In this room, Thomas and the family visited with patrons, friends, and fellow artists. It was a space full of conversation, where the business of art was conducted, and where Thomas expressed his opinions about what landscape art should be.

On tabletops around the room you will find four different stories told through letters. These conversations about art and business raise questions that we still grapple with today.

Team Effort

Thomas benefitted from having a large extended family that provided support for his growing artistic career. Maria’s sister Harriet is known to have shown Thomas’s paintings to visitors, and Maria was a savvy advisor on Thomas’s negotiations with potential buyers.

Don’t Miss the Wall Paint

The wall paint in this room has been made and applied through historically accurate methods. The paint was hand-mixed with oil from natural pigments, and then applied using a brush. The color, here and in other rooms, is true to the time of Thomas’s residency.

 

– NEXT STOP –

Head upstairs to explore the family’s more private rooms of the house. Once upstairs, follow the railing to the Bedroom.

MARIA & THOMAS’S BEDROOM

Maria and Thomas frequently exchanged letters while he travelled. Thomas’s career required that he have a presence in both New York City and Europe, but he missed his family terribly. Explore the room to find these letters.

Don’t Miss the Trunk

Thomas’s Trunk accompanied him on his two European trips, carrying everything he might need, from clothes, to sketchbooks to canvases. The trunk was not custom made but purchased at a store in New York. His initials were necessary because Thomas was not traveling in a private carriage and had to be able to identify his trunk among strangers.

 

– NEXT STOP –

Exit the bedroom and turn into the room on your left.

MIND UPON NATURE: THOMAS COLE’S CREATIVE PROCESS

Here, we encourage you to explore the artist’s working process and ideas. You will find an array of sketches and paintings, the books and objects that inspired him, and the pigments and materials he used to create his paintings. This exhibition is refreshed annually and highlights original objects and artwork from the museum collection and major works on long-term loan.

The Bartow Sisters

Maria’s sisters once shared this space as a bedroom. Her eldest sister Emily was the head of the house after her uncle passed away. Harriet was a teacher, and the flower garden outside was generally referred to in letters as hers. The youngest sister, Frances, spent time in the Hartford Retreat for the Insane, then known as the first hospital in the United States to employ “moral treatment” for individuals with mental illnesses. Frances was identified as “insane” on the 1870 census. No personal records of hers have yet been found.

 

– NEXT STOP –

Enter the Sitting Room across the hall.

SITTING ROOM

Thomas was troubled by the political climate of the United States, which he suspected was headed toward a major internal conflict. The Jacksonian Era of his time was marked by an authoritarian president, a large number of political parties, expansion westward, reform movements, debates about slavery, and the Trail of Tears.

Thomas wanted to make art that mattered and made people think. He had high aspirations about the power of art, and complained that people wanted “things, not thoughts.” In the 1840s he drafted “Lecture on Art,” in which he articulates his thoughts about how art could help to create an improved world.

As you explore the newspaper clippings, letters, and essays on the table and desk, you will hear from Thomas about his ambitions and the political climate of his era.

Major Events Happening in Thomas’s Lifetime.

Read the Audio Transcription

Sarah Cole

Sarah Cole was a professional artist known as one of the first female printmakers in the country. In this room are two of her paintings depicting the English countryside. Sarah also counseled her brother, Thomas, during moments of doubt.

Wallpaper & Carpet

The wallpaper and carpet are historic designs recreated for this space.

 

– NEXT STOP –

Head into the adjoining room. Ask a staff member to play the presentation.

HOUSE STUDIO

This room was Thomas’s first studio upon his marriage to Maria. Maria was often with him, reading to him while he painted and offering advice. Thomas once wrote to her, “But how can I paint without you with me to praise or to criticize?” In her journal, Maria recorded: “a volume of Scot in my hand to read to T. who was painting the Sky of his Compagna Scene.” (April 6, 1843).

We believe it was here that Thomas painted View of Schroon Mountain, Essex County, New York, After a Storm. Ask a staff member to play the presentation. We invite you to dive into Thomas’s creative process by joining him on his journey into the Adirondack mountains.

Read the Audio Transcription

The Children’s Room

After Maria and Thomas had their first child, this room became the children’s bedroom. The couple had five children. Theodore was the eldest, and would go on to become property manager at Olana, Frederic Church’s home across the river. Mary and Emily lived the remainder of their lives here. Emily was fascinated by nature, and like her father was a professional artist. Elizabeth lived for only two days. Thomas Cole, Jr. was born shortly after his father died in 1848. He became a reverend in nearby Saugerties.

– NEXT STOP –

Scroll down to dive deeper into View of Schroon Mountain.

Creating A View of Schroon Mountain

Thomas placed several indigenous figures (two in the foreground, and several in the distance), into this painting – a departure from his more common inclusion of solitary figures.

In July of 1837 the Coles travelled to Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks. On their way they stopped in Albany to see the artist George Catlin and his “Indian Gallery” – a touring exhibition of hundreds of paintings depicting figures and customs of indigenous people, whose aggressive removal was legally sanctioned by President Jackson’s “Indian Removal Act” of 1830.

The following year, when Thomas finished this painting, one of the culminating events of the Indian Removal Act occurred. The U.S. government sent troops to violently evict all indigenous nations remaining east of the Mississippi River – particularly the Cherokee. They were forced on a deadly 1,200 mile walk west. Families were separated, and many died from sickness or starvation. It came to be known as the “Trail of Tears.”

Don’t Miss This

Maria and Thomas’s written recollections of their trip to the Adirondacks enabled us to retrace their steps. Check out the reproductions of those writings nearby.

Lumber Industry

Thomas described dashing through the woods and finding “mutilated trees” and “clearings.” Many trees in this area were cut down for the lumber industry, and it was because of such clearings that he was able to find this view.

– NEXT STOP –

Leave the Main House and walk back to the Visitor Center in the white barn to enter Thomas’s studio where he painted for seven years.

OLD STUDIO

It is in this studio where Thomas painted many of his major works, including The Voyage of Life, a series of four paintings that explore the stages of life. A reproduction of one of them, Childhood, is displayed on his original easel. Thomas worked here until 1846, at which time he moved into his “New Studio.”

When Thomas died of pleurisy in 1848 at age forty-seven, he left behind a young family. Maria was pregnant with their fifth child, and his children were all under the age of ten. His newly constructed studio (“New Studio”) was full of half-finished paintings. Through his mentorship and ideas, Thomas inspired generations of artists including Frederic Church, Susie Barstow, Asher B. Durand, and Sanford Gifford, who would collectively become known as the Hudson River School painters.

Narrative Landscapes

The Voyage of Life series illustrates Thomas’s wish to create paintings that combine landscape with narrative elements to convey ideas about humanity – what he termed a “higher style of landscape.”

Don’t Miss the Easel

The size of Thomas’s original easel helps put into perspective the scale at which he was working, and why he built a bigger space for himself in his New Studio.

About the Old Studio

– NEXT STOP –

Return to the Visitor Center to browse our selection of Thomas Cole-inspired items. If you’re looking for nearby walking trails, places to grab lunch in the village, or even Thomas’s burial site, we can help.

 

Images:

Exhibition installation, Thomas Cole’s Refrain: The Paintings of Catskill Creek, 2019, © Peter AaronOTTO

Exhibition installation, SPECTRUM, 2018, © Peter AaronOTTO

New Studio © Peter AaronOTTO

Main House, Photo by Rachel Stults

Entry Hall © Peter AaronOTTO

East Parlor © Peter AaronOTTO

Library Gallery © Peter AaronOTTO

West Parlor © Peter AaronOTTO

Bedroom © Peter AaronOTTO

Sitting Room © Peter AaronOTTO

House Studio © Peter AaronOTTO

Old Studio, Photo by Devin Pickering

Old Studio, Interior © Peter AaronOTTO

Heather ParoubekGuide Book

Pollinator Pavillion Audio Feature Text

Transcription of the Pollinator Pavilion Audio Feature with the artists Mark Dion and Dana Sherwood. The audio is available at thomascole.org/pollinatorpavilion.

MARK DION on “The Pollinator Pavilion”

Dana and I were both very excited to have the opportunity to work at the Thomas Cole House for the [Cross Pollination] exhibition. The idea of cross-pollination is something we are very excited about. We knew very well the work of Martin Johnson Heade and the hummingbird and orchid paintings. We worked in the form of follies. We both worked and produced art that has the interaction of humans and animals, so this was the perfect kind of collaboration for us, the perfect direction for us to move in. And of course, we live very close to Catskill, so it was in many ways an ideal situation.

We thought very much about the paintings of Heade, which are just marvelous. They are just so incredibly beautiful. We thought, the only thing equally marvelous, or more marvelous, than a Heade hummingbird painting is a hummingbird itself. We wanted to construct a situation in which the viewer has an opportunity to encounter hummingbirds to actually be in a place that is shared with hummingbirds. We chose a very strange architectural mélange for the design of the gazebo, and that has a lot to do with thinking about the fantastical aspects that we see in Thomas Cole’s paintings, especially in relationship to architecture. In works like The Architect’s Dream or other pieces in which he is creating a sense of the sublime and the fantastic through his architectural representations, we want to in some way to reflect on Cole’s architectural fantasies.

DANA SHERWOOD on “The Pollinator Pavilion”

It’s no wonder that the Hudson Valley has been a draw for artists since the time of Thomas Cole. The majesty and sublime nature that surrounds the area at his time and in ours still today is full of wonder. Mark and I really wanted to capture the sense of wonder and the magical aspects of being in nature. Besides being able to go and take a walk in the forest or walk along the Hudson River here, we wanted to bring these incredible specimens that we have right here in the area, such as the hummingbird, and bring it right into the experience of the artwork where the viewer can be part of that.

While we were making this work, we had started collecting a lot of the plants that attract pollinator species, and we had filled them in our garden here in Copake. It was just incredible to go out there every morning at dawn and see the vast array and number of pollinator species, like bees, different butterflies, and in particular the hummingbirds, which of course you hear before you actually see. There is nothing like that moment of awe when you actually see them whiz by. No matter how many times you have that experience, every single time, invokes that same marvelous joy.

I think it’s worth noting that even though Mark and I have been working with nature and science for our entire careers, there’s an aspect of nurturing and growing and sustaining the natural environment, in particular the flora culture, where it brings it to entirely new level when you start thinking about sustaining the species of insect that actually make our ecosystem possible. A lot of them are virtually invisible, not to the naked eye, but as you walk through your garden, you may not notice all the insects fluttering about, and you may not recognize their significance. I know I knew this on a certain level, but there is something about bringing them into the garden and seeing how they really perform a crucial aspect to our natural ecosystem.

Jennifer GreimPollinator Pavillion Audio Feature Text

Thomas Cole’s Journey:
Atlantic Crossings

by Jason Rosenfeld

MARCH 5TH, 2018

In 2015 the painter Stephen Hannock and I curated “River Crossings” at Cedar Grove in Catskill, the home of Thomas Cole, and The Olana Partnership in Hudson, the home of Frederic Edwin Church, filling those loci of the evolution of American landscape painting with works by contemporary Hudson River Valley artists…Read Here.

Jennifer Greim

Announcing OPEN HOUSE: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole / Inaugural exhibition by artist Jason Middlebrook

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is pleased to announce the start of a new series of contemporary installations entitled OPEN HOUSE: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole. The inaugural exhibition is with artist Jason Middlebrook and will be on view August 14 – October 30. A members’ opening event will be held on August 13, 5-7 pm.

Open House: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole is a new series of contemporary art projects at the Thomas Cole National Historic site that explore the continued power and influence of Thomas Cole’s art and ideas. Operating from the concept that all art is contemporary, the program activates conversations between artists across the centuries. For this installation, Middlebrook is creating a site-specific exhibition inside the home of artist, Thomas Cole, in collaboration with the Thomas Cole site’s curator Kate Menconeri. This solo project, installed in conversation with works by Cole already within the house, will feature a selection of Middlebrook’s signature hardwood plank paintings and debut new works on paper, made for the occasion, that draw on Cole’s sketches of trees. Middlebrook lives and works in the Hudson Valley and has had solo shows at MASS MoCA and the New Museum, among other national and international venues.

“Bringing contemporary art into the home of the 19th-century artist Thomas Cole is incredibly exciting, as it creates the possibility of new conversations between artists and artworks across the centuries – conversations in which we can participate,” says Elizabeth Jacks, Executive Director of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. “As it was with the installation of contemporary art here in 2015, part of the pleasure of this exhibition is the element of surprise as well as visual delight.”

“I am compelled by how the work incorporates trees as the canvas itself. The intentional use of the material overturns conventional expectations of what we might consider a landscape, a painting, or a sculpture,” says Kate Menconeri, Curator of the Thomas Cole site. “Towering and awe-inspiring, Middlebrook’s forms speak to the desire to both control or harness nature, but also honor nature’s organic geometry, abstraction, and history, as found in the sinewy lines of a tree.”

Read the exhibition press release.

About The Artist

Middlebrook paints, sculpts, draws, and creates installations that explore the relationship between nature and culture, and often blur the lines between landscape and architecture, and art and object. For his hardwood plank paintings the artist salvages lumber from a local mill and brings them back to his studio where he draws intricate lines of paint and colored patterns onto the wood. He paints the planks – maple, walnut, elm – with and against their natural grain – and in doing so intentionally acknowledges the complex stakes of human intervention in the natural environment.

“My work is broken into two parts; the first is a skin that I lay over the top of nature, somewhat like a side walk or a parking lot. The skin is just visiting, it’s covering but respecting the borders it has been given. The borders in my case are the shapes of trees, the trunks and limbs are what I choose to make paintings on; the paintings become the skin. The second aspect of my work is my reaction and interpretation of nature. This current body of work is in it’s 10th year of evolution…. In all cases the grain and the shape of wood dictate the direction of the painting which always starts with multiple drawings…”

Middlebrook’s words and work echo questions that occupied Cole almost two decades earlier, and the artists share preoccupations with our quickly changing landscape, as well as our complicated and inextricable relationship with nature, raising questions such as how to balance the man-made with the organic and examiningwhat is at stake with unchecked development.

Time will not permit me to speak of the American forest trees individually; but I must notice the elm, that paragon of beauty and shade; the maple, with its rainbow hues; and the hemlock, the sublime of trees, which rises from the gloom of the forest like a dark and ivy-mantled tower…Yet I cannot but express my sorrow that the beauty of such landscapes are quickly passing away – the ravages of the axe are daily increasing. – Thomas Cole, Essay on American Scenery, 1836

Jason Middlebrook earned a BFA from the University of California at Santa Cruz before pursuing graduate work at the San Francisco Art Institute. From 1994 to 1995, he attended the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York. Middlebrook has exhibited his work extensively, including at institutions such as the New Museum in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, MASS MoCA in North Adams, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, among others. His work was included in the 2014 SITE Santa Fe biennial.

Meet Jason Middlebrook in our interview with the artist for the Open House Videos Series.

Program Description

Open House is collaborative by nature. Each year the Thomas Cole staff will invite one or two contemporary artists to create a site-specific project that engages with the art, writings, home and story of Thomas Cole. Projects may take the shape of an installation, a performance, a guided walk, or other format reflecting the artist’s practice and ideas. This program will seek artworks and ideas of the highest artistic merit, drawn from newly created or relevant pre-existing works, that shed light on the connections between 19th-century American art and contemporary times, and that specifically speak to the historic environments in which they are presented. That dialogue takes on a special significance because the artworks will be placed into the very spaces where Thomas Cole launched this country’s first major art movement, now known as the Hudson River School. This context offers artists working today a unique venue in which to realize a project. The goals of the project are to engage both current and new audiences with a presentation that departs from the expected “house museum” experience, to enable visitors to access the historic spaces from a new angle, to provoke new ideas about the meaning of the art and history of the mid-19th century, and to encourage audiences to confront the vast cultural shifts that distinguish Cole’s time from our own.

Project History

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site was established as a creative and flexible institution from its beginnings. With the writing of its General Management Plan in 2004, the traditional “house museum” model of a static display of decorative arts was specifically rejected in order to accommodate a variety of educational initiatives. The Thomas Cole site’s senior staff members have a background in both historic and contemporary art: the Executive Director, Elizabeth Jacks, formerly worked at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the site’s Curator, Kate Menconeri, has worked with contemporary artists for over a decade and holds a degree from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. In 2015, the Thomas Cole site in partnership with the nearby Olana State Historic Site organized and presented an exhibition of contemporary art that spanned the two sites that face each other across the Hudson River. The exhibition, entitled “River Crossings: Contemporary Art Comes Home”, was curated by the artist Stephen Hannock and the professor Jason Rosenfeld, and featured work by 28 artists including Chuck Close, Maya Lin and Cindy Sherman, whose work was integrated into the historic interiors of the two historic sites. The exhibition drew attention to the story of this part of the Hudson Valley as the place where American art was born in the early 19th-century, a place that continues to spark creativity and innovation among artists working today. The initiative also shattered attendance records at both sites and brought unprecedented media coverage including a feature on CBS Sunday Morning.

About the Thomas Cole National Historic Site

Thomas Cole National Historic Site (TCNHS) preserves and interprets the home and studios of Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of painting, the nation’s first major art movement.  Located on 6 acres in the Hudson Valley, the site includes the 1815 Main House, 1839 Old Studio, the newly reconstructed 1846 New Studio, and several other buildings. It is a National Historic Landmark and an affiliated area of the National Park System. Following a restoration of the Main House, the TCNHS opened to the public in 2001. TCNHS activities include guided tours, exhibitions, printed publications, extensive online programs, activities for school groups, free community events, lectures, and innovative public programs such as the Hudson River School Art Trail—a map and website that enables visitors to see the nearby views that Cole painted. Each year, the TCNHS organizes a loan exhibition of Hudson River School paintings, providing a first-hand experience with the art movement that Cole founded. The goal of all programs at the TCNHS is to enable visitors to find meaning and inspiration in Thomas Cole’s life and work. The themes that Cole explored in his art and writings—such as landscape preservation and our conception of nature as a restorative power—are both historic and timely, providing the opportunity to connect to audiences with insights that are highly relevant to their own lives.

Visit

Thomas Cole’s home, studios, special exhibitions, and grounds are open May – October, Tuesday – Sunday 9:30 to 5pm. For details see: www.thomascole.org.

 

Kate MenconeriAnnouncing OPEN HOUSE: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole / Inaugural exhibition by artist Jason Middlebrook

Cole Site Awarded Grants Totaling $612,650

December 8, 2016

We are pleased to announce that the Thomas Cole National Historic Site was awarded two New York State grants through the Regional Economic Development Council totaling $582,650, furthering the transformation of the site into a national tourism destination and economic driver for the region. A grant of $165,000 was awarded to promote the Cole Site’s new installation, the Parlors Project, opening in May 2017. The Parlors Project integrates meticulous historic restoration with interactive audio visual technology to bring to life the home of Thomas Cole and engage broad new audiences. A second grant of $417,650 was awarded to install a fire suppression system in the site’s Main House. This system will protect the recently discovered and only known example of Cole’s decorative paintings that were done directly on the walls of his home.

For the full pdf from the Regional Economic Development Council click here. 

For the press release from the Thomas Cole Site click here.

December 13, 2016 

We are pleased to announce that the Thomas Cole National Historic Site has been awarded an Art Works Grant of $30,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the 2017 exhibition Sanford R. Gifford in the Catskills and accompanying catalogue. Sanford R. Gifford in the Catskills opens in May 2017 and will be presented in Thomas Cole’s New Studio. The exhibition is curated by Kevin J. Avery, Senior Research Scholar at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibition will highlight Gifford’s creative process and for the first time bring the original paintings to a venue just a few miles from the sites that inspired them.

For the full pdf from the National Endowment for the Arts click here. 

For the press release from the Thomas Cole Site click here.

Jennifer GreimCole Site Awarded Grants Totaling $612,650

Reconstructing Thomas Cole’s New Studio

Our Executive Director, Betsy Jacks, documents the behind-the-scenes journey to recreate Thomas Cole’s self-designed New Studio.

The Grand Opening! May 2, 2016

Photo by James Autery

Photo by James Autery

On Sunday May 1, the grand opening and official ribbon-cutting for the New Studio took place at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. Pictured here, left to right: Anne Miller, Chairman of the Capital Campaign Committee; Lisa Fox Martin, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, George Amadore, State Senator; Elizabeth Jacks, Executive Director; and John Mesick, Architect.

 

Finishing Touches November 25, 2015

At last the beautiful, hand-made, bright green shutters have arrived. The architect John Mesick designed them to be exactly like the originals, with smaller louvers on the top half of each shutter and larger louvers on the bottom half. The color was taken from two sources: one is a pencil drawing by Frederic Church from 1848 in which he indicates the colors in his hand-written notes on the drawing. The second is from a recently discovered painting of the building by Charles Herbert Moore, which will be on view inside the New Studio as part of the 2016 exhibition that will open on May 1, 2016.

Photo by Elizabeth Jacks, November 25, 2015

Photo by Elizabeth Jacks, November 25, 2015

 

Preview for Supporters Coming Up September 9, 2015

On Saturday September 19th we will open the doors of the New Studio for the first time for a special preview for everyone who has donated to the campaign. This is a truly thrilling moment for all of us. Please donate now and join this incredible celebration. Cocktails will begin at 5 pm, followed by remarks by the building’s renowned architect John I Mesick at 5:30. The event is free for anyone who has donated to the campaign at any level. Become a part of this historic moment.

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The New Studio Hits The New York Times August 10, 2015

The lovely reporter, Eve Kahn, visited us a few weeks ago and just fell in love with the New Studio. As luck would have it, the exterior scaffolding had just been taken down, and the exterior painting just completed, revealing the beautiful little building in its full glory at last. She exclaimed, “It combines grandeur with adorableness!”, which I had to agree with. Here is her wonderful article that appeared in print today: Thomas Cole’s Art Studio to Be Recreated. 

 

Siding, trim! May 11, 2015

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The construction crew of Dimensions North continued work through the weekend to get up the siding and trim along the roofline. Every day the building looks more and more like the photograph.  The 2015 photo is taken from the south-east corner, while the 1900 photo is taken from the north-west.

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Barge Board of Solid Mahogany March 25, 2015

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Over the winter, while the rest of us were wondering if the cold weather would ever end, the construction crew at the New Studio have been busy. With the building closed in and insulated, even the below-zero weather did not slow them down. On New Year’s Day, the cellulose insultation was blown into the wall cavities. The VESDA (Very Early Smoke Detection Apparatus) was installed, along with the security system. The stainless steel pipes for the high-pressure mist fire suppression system were laid into the attic. A large sample of the “barge board” was created and approved by the architect. In the photo at right, the head contractor Rich Rappleyea shows off the woodwork sample, made of solid mahogany so that it will last at least 50 years. Now, with the weather turning at last, the crew will turn to work on the exterior once again.

 

Cast in Silver January 26, 2015

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Right now, the New Studio looks as if it were made of solid silver. The building has an unusual construction: the plywood sheathing is on the inside, attached to the wooden studs from within. The insulation, therefore, was added from the outside. What you are seeing in the photo at right is the foil coating on the insulating foam board. Underneath that layer is cellulose insulation, in between the studs. Very soon, the contractor will be putting on the siding. I’m sure the siding will be beautiful, but I do like the solid silver monument that it is right now.

 

The Roof Takes Shape October 9, 2014

We brought in a crane this week and lifted the trusses into place. The building is taking on its final shape in this video:

 

Meet the Project team September 23, 2014

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As this building goes up, a team of architects and enginners are overseeing every step. Pictured at right are (left to right):

Mark Dahl, architect from Mesick-Cohen-Wilson-Baker Architects; Betsy Jacks, Executive Director of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site; Rich Rappleyea, owner of Dimensions North, the contractor on the project; Stephen Dunn, Vice President of the Board of Trustees of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and head of the Building Committee; and Curtis Wilsey, engineer from Quantum Engineering.

 

Walls! And They are Tall September 17, 2016

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As I walked down the path to the New Studio construction site today, I was amazed to see a giant wall stretching into the sky. The building is taking shape. Two of the four walls are now up, and two enormous west-facing windows are framed. In the picture at right, I am standing in front of one of them. In Cole’s time, those windows would have framed an uninterrupted view of the Catskills. As I approached the building I was struck by how small the people looked in relation to the scale of the building, and it occurred to me that this was part of Thomas Cole’s design – the smallness of man. It was a beautiful sight. Do come and see this for yourself.

P.S. Don’t you want your name to be on the donor wall? Support the New Studio.

 

Thomas Cole’s Stones August 20, 2014

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This week I am happy to report that the foundation has been poured and the stonework on the exterior is almost complete. In the photo at right, you can see the stones being cut and carefully put in place. During the excavation of the site, the original foundation stones were saved, washed and stored on pallets. A skilled stone mason is now placing them on a concrete shelf that was built into the poured concrete foundation. The concrete portion, which you can see now, will be covered with earth when the building is complete.

 

The Footing Is In July 14, 2014

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Construction on the New Studio is now in its second week. Today the concrete footing was poured in the morning so as to be sure to get it in before the afternoon thundershower. Rich Rappleyea, our GC, was there early to be sure it all moved along quickly. The crew was fast! The wood form was completely done by the time the cement truck arrived. Shown in the photo at right is the footing at the north-west corner and a portion of the entrance portico as it juts out.

 

We Officially Broke Ground Today on the New Studio  July 3, 2014

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We broke ground today on the reconstruction of the New Studio! It is a day that many people have been thinking about for a long time. A groundbreaking ceremony took place on the lawn next to the foundation stones with remarks and congratulations followed by a photograph with the shovels.

In the photo above are:

Rowena Sahulee, Director of Tourism Marketing at I LOVE NY.

Vincent Seeley, Mayor, Village of Catskill.

Joseph Kosloski (behind Vincent), Legislator, Greene County.

Stephen Dunn, Trustee, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Warner Shook, Trustee, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Lisa Fox Martin, Board Chairman, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Stephen Shadley, Trustee, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

John Mesick (behind Stephen), Architect.

Rose Harvey, NY State Parks Commissioner.

Nina Matis (behind the shovel), Trustee, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Carrie Feder, Trustee, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Elizabeth Jacks, Executive Director, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Linda Gentalen (behind Elizabeth), Trustee, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Hudson Talbott, Trustee, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Peter Lopez, NY State Assemblyman.

Michel Goldberg, Trustee, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

 

Ground Breaking Event July 1, 2014

Come to the Groundbreaking Event on Thursday, July 3, 2014 at 10am

We’re on our way! Join us for the official start of the project to reconstruct Thomas Cole’s New Studio. Giving remarks at the event will be Rose Harvey, New York State Parks Commissioner; Peter Lopez, New York State Assemblyman; John Mesick, the project’s architect; as well as Betsy Jacks and Lisa Fox Martin of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

 

Historic Photographs February 12, 2014

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Over the past decade we’ve been collecting any and all known photographs of the New Studio building, built in 1846 and demolished in 1974. Because the demolition was so recent, we are hoping that additional photographs will surface. Do you have or know someone who has an image of the building? If so, please contact us! Here are some of the images we’ve obtained so far. The sepia-toned photograph at right shows the building in a state of extreme disrepair, but the image is not dated and we have no information about the date. Below are two other photographs, but again with no date. Both of them show the building set among the trees of an old orchard, atop a grassy knoll. All of the known images show the building from this same angle — from the northwest looking southeast. The west facade has two enormous windows that face the Catskills. The north facade has an entrance porch. We have yet to find a single image of the east facade of the building.

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The New Studio Project Gets Underway January 15, 2014

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It is with great excitement that we publicly launch the project to reconstruct Thomas Cole’s New Studio! This page will be continually updated with the latest news as the project progresses, and it will serve as a source for the history of the building, surviving historic photographs, etc.

To begin, we would like to share with you a photograph of the building from 1964 — an image that we just became aware of this week. It had never been seen by our staff or the project’s architect until now. The leaves are off of the trees, allowing a clearer view of the north-facing porch and entrance. By this time, the delicate arched trim work from the eaves of the building is missing, as are the shutters on the west-facing windows, but the wooden acorn detail is still visible on the corner of the roof line.

For contrast, included here below is a photograph from around 1900. Thomas Cole’s daughter Emily can be seen near the entrance portico, giving you an idea of the scale of the building. Our reconstruction will painstakingly follow Thomas Cole’s original design, as seen below.

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Jennifer GreimReconstructing Thomas Cole’s New Studio

Special Event to Honor Peter Hutton Sunday, October 9, 2 pm

 

September 2016 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Heather Paroubek – 518.943.7465 ext. 5 / hparoubek@thomascole.org

Thomas Cole National Historic Site

218 Spring St, P.O. Box 426

Catskill, NY 12414

Special Event for the Late Filmmaker Peter Hutton to take place on Sunday, October 9, 2 pm

Annual Fall Event to Feature Lecture by Scott MacDonald and Screenings of Hutton’s Films

Catskill, NY — Join the Thomas Cole National Historic Site as we celebrate the work of Hudson River landscape filmmaker Peter Hutton at the Arts Center Theater of Columbia-Greene Community College on Sunday, October 9 at 2 pm. During his 46 years as an independent filmmaker, Hutton, who passed away on June 25, produced a remarkable body of work that demonstrates that the legacy of Thomas Cole and Hudson River School painting is very much alive, not only in modern painting, but in cinema, as well.

Professor Scott MacDonald, Ph.D., Professor of Art History at Hamilton College and author of 14 books on independent cinema, will present this year’s Raymond Beecher Memorial Lecture: Taking Time to Look: The Landscape Films of Peter Hutton. Dr. MacDonald, whose passion for over 30 years has been introducing audiences to the worlds of alternative film and video, will show two of Hutton’s films – Landscape (for Manon) and Time and Tide – while providing an overview of Hutton’s life and work. A full-color print publication with an essay by MacDonald, who was named an Academy Film Scholar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2012, will accompany the lecture and screening event.

Although Hutton made films all over the world, a number of his most important films focus on the same Hudson Valley scenery that captivated Thomas Cole. Hutton paid homage to Cole and the Hudson River School painters both explicitly – as in calling his 1991 film In Titan’s Goblet, a direct reference to Cole’s 1833 painting, The Titan’s Goblet – and implicitly, by forcing contemporary audiences to slow down and really look at the landscape, echoing the intent of 19th-century American landscape painters. The affinities between their artworks extend even to their chosen mediums: Hutton often slows the action on the screen to a stillness that is almost painting-like, while Cole was the most cinematic 19th-century American painter. Although Thomas Edison’s moving pictures didn’t appear until 50 years after Cole’s death, Cole was intimately familiar with panoramas, widely popular in the 19th century, and from his first paid commission – for which he painted a paired series for the Steamboat Albany – to the five-part series The Cross and the World he was working on when he died, Cole wanted to tell pictorial stories in multiple frames. Cole’s biographer, Ellwood C. Parry, III, wrote that Cole possessed “a truly cinematic imagination,” speculating that “it is not difficult to imagine that if Cole were alive today he might be making motion pictures.”

Peter Hutton began teaching at Bard College in 1985 and chaired the Film and Electronic Arts Program there for 27 years. He studied painting, sculpture, and film at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he received his BFA and MFA degrees, and paid his way by serving with the merchant marine. In 1987, Hutton was awarded Best Cinematography for his work on Phil Hartman’s feature film No Picnic at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2011, the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress selected Study of a River as one of 25 films annually chosen. Hutton has many fans locally, nationally and worldwide: in 2010, when the magazine Film Comment, which is produced by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, asked critics around the world to choose the best avant-garde films of the first decade of the new millennium, Hutton’s At Sea was voted the number #1 film of the decade, and Hutton himself one of the top filmmakers of the decade.

The Columbia-Greene Community College Theater is located at 4400 Route 23, Hudson, NY. A reception will follow the lecture. Tickets are $9 or $8 for members, available in advance or at the door. This event is sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts “Imagine Your Parks” program as well as individual funders including Adele Pressman, David Gatten, Erin Espelie, Patricia O’Connor, John Knecht, James Benning, Sharon Lockhart, Robb Moss, Alfred Guzzetti, Richard Herskowitz, David Rodowick, and Patricia Zimmermann.

About Thomas Cole: As the founder of America’s first art movement, the Hudson River School, Thomas Cole (1801-1848) is a central figure in the development of American culture. When Cole made his first trip up the Hudson River in 1825, thought-leaders were searching for something distinctly American to establish the nation’s own culture as separate from that of Europe. Thomas Cole found it in the Catskill Mountain wilderness, which came to symbolize the unspoiled character of the new nation. Lionized during his lifetime and celebrated by a generation of artists who followed in his footsteps, Cole is now widely regarded as the father of American landscape painting.

About the Thomas Cole National Historic Site: The Thomas Cole National Historic Site preserves and interprets the home and studios of Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of painting, the nation’s first art movement. Cole’s profound influence on America’s cultural landscape inspires us to engage broad audiences through educational programs that are relevant today. The Thomas Cole Historic House is an independent non-profit organization and an affiliate of the National Park Service. HOURS:  Tour the Main House and Old Studio, Tues-Thurs, 10am-4pm, and Fri-Sun, 10am-1pm. Your ticket also includes the New Studio and exhibitions. Explore all the historic buildings and special exhibitions at your own pace with guides are on hand to answer questions, Fri, Sat & Sun from 2 to 5pm. The site is open May through October 30, 2016. Grounds are free and open to the public from dawn until dusk.

 

Contact: Heather Paroubek – 518.943.7465 ext. 5

hparoubek@thomascole.org

Thomas Cole National Historic Site

218 Spring St, P.O. Box 426

Catskill, NY 12414

 

 

 

Kate MenconeriSpecial Event to Honor Peter Hutton Sunday, October 9, 2 pm

Community Day!

Sunday September 18, 2016, 1-4 pm

Come one, come all to the 6th annual Community Day! From 1-4 pm, Thomas Cole’s home and the galleries will be open free of charge, with activities for the whole family. Visitors can view the Main House, New Studio and special exhibitions. There will be live music, a storyteller, art activities, a giant architectural structure to make, and free refreshments will be served. Free admission.

A special feature of the annual Community Day is the exhibition “Postcards from the Trail”, with hundreds of paintings on view and for sale. Paintings are just $100 each for adult work, and $25 each for youth work. Come early for the best selection.

Scheduled Events & Activities

1–2 pm               Live Music by the Coxsackie-Athens Community Band in the music tent

1-2 pm                Q&A in the main tent with Rich Rappleyea, the New Studio builder

2-3 pm                Live Music by Carmen Borgia & Alison Davy in the music tent

2:30 pm              Live performance of StoryCrafters under the Main House

2–4 pm            Q&A in the Main House with Margaret Saliske, the conservator restoring the decorative painting in the parlors

3-4 pm                Live Music by Foggy Otis and the Hudson Dusters in the music tent

3 pm                    Q&A in the Main House with curator Kate Menconeri about the exhibition Nature Builds/We Cover by Jason Middlebrook

3:30 pm              Live performance of StoryCrafters under the Main House

3:30 pm              Raffle Drawing

4:00 pm              Pick up your painting from the Postcards exhibition on the West Porch

Ongoing Events & Activities: 1-4 pm

  • Enjoy free admission to the Main House, Old Studio, and New Studio.
  • Buy a $100 painting at the Postcards from the Trail exhibition on the West Porch.
  • See the exhibition Thomas Cole: The Artist as Architect in the New Studio.
  • Discover the art installation by Jason Middlebrook in the Main House and on the lawn.
  • Explore the “please touch” table in the Creative Process exhibition in the Main House.
  • Grab a meal at Pippy’s Food Truck.
  • Enjoy free cookies and lemonade at the Visitor Center.
  • Do some shopping in the gift shop.
  • Add to the giant cardboard architectural project.
  • Test out our new free Audio Guide, funded by AT&T.
  • Add some color to the Kids’ Mural Activity.
  • Toss bean-bags in the bean-bag game. Play croquet.
  • Take a selfie with a super-sized Thomas Cole.
  • Draw a landscape using a Camera Obscura.
  • Enter the raffle at the information table for a chance to win a prize.

 

rootCommunity Day!

OPEN HOUSE: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole

Installation view. Photo by Michael Fredericks

Installation view. Photo by Michael Fredericks

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is pleased to announce the start of a new series of contemporary installations entitled OPEN HOUSE: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole. The inaugural exhibition was Jason Middlebrook: Nature Builds / We Cover, on view August 14 – October 30, 2016. See a video about the exhibition and listen to the artist here. The 2017 project will be announced soon.

Open House: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole is a new series of contemporary art projects at the Thomas Cole National Historic site that explore the continued power and influence of Thomas Cole’s art and ideas. Operating from the concept that all art is contemporary, the program activates conversations between artists across the centuries.

Program Description

Open House is collaborative by nature. Each year the Thomas Cole staff will invite one or two contemporary artists to create a site-specific project that engages with the art, writings, home and story of Thomas Cole. Projects may take the shape of an installation, a performance, a guided walk, or other format reflecting the artist’s practice and ideas. This program will seek artworks and ideas of the highest artistic merit, drawn from newly created or relevant pre-existing works, that shed light on the connections between 19th-century American art and contemporary times, and that specifically speak to the historic environments in which they are presented. That dialogue takes on a special significance because the artworks will be placed into the very spaces where Thomas Cole launched this country’s first major art movement, now known as the Hudson River School. This context offers artists working today a unique venue in which to realize a project. The goals of the project are to engage both current and new audiences with a presentation that departs from the expected “house museum” experience, to enable visitors to access the historic spaces from a new angle, to provoke new ideas about the meaning of the art and history of the mid-19th century, and to encourage audiences to confront the vast cultural shifts that distinguish Cole’s time from our own.

Project History

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site was established as a creative and flexible institution from its beginnings. With the writing of its General Management Plan in 2004, the traditional “house museum” model of a static display of decorative arts was specifically rejected in order to accommodate a variety of educational initiatives. The Thomas Cole site’s senior staff members have a background in both historic and contemporary art: the Executive Director, Elizabeth Jacks, formerly worked at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the site’s Curator, Kate Menconeri, has worked with contemporary artists for over a decade and holds a degree from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. In 2015, the Thomas Cole site in partnership with the nearby Olana State Historic Site organized and presented an exhibition of contemporary art that spanned the two sites that face each other across the Hudson River. The exhibition, entitled “River Crossings: Contemporary Art Comes Home”, was curated by the artist Stephen Hannock and the professor Jason Rosenfeld, and featured work by 28 artists including Chuck Close, Maya Lin and Cindy Sherman, whose work was integrated into the historic interiors of the two historic sites. The exhibition drew attention to the story of this part of the Hudson Valley as the place where American art was born in the early 19th-century, a place that continues to spark creativity and innovation among artists working today. The initiative also shattered attendance records at both sites and brought unprecedented media coverage including a feature on CBS Sunday Morning.

About the Thomas Cole National Historic Site

Thomas Cole National Historic Site (TCNHS) preserves and interprets the home and studios of Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of painting, the nation’s first major art movement.  Located on 6 acres in the Hudson Valley, the site includes the 1815 Main House, 1839 Old Studio, the newly reconstructed 1846 New Studio, and several other buildings. It is a National Historic Landmark and an affiliated area of the National Park System. Following a restoration of the Main House, the TCNHS opened to the public in 2001. TCNHS activities include guided tours, exhibitions, printed publications, extensive online programs, activities for school groups, free community events, lectures, and innovative public programs such as the Hudson River School Art Trail—a map and website that enables visitors to see the nearby views that Cole painted. Each year, the TCNHS organizes a loan exhibition of Hudson River School paintings, providing a first-hand experience with the art movement that Cole founded. The goal of all programs at the TCNHS is to enable visitors to find meaning and inspiration in Thomas Cole’s life and work. The themes that Cole explored in his art and writings—such as landscape preservation and our conception of nature as a restorative power—are both historic and timely, providing the opportunity to connect to audiences with insights that are highly relevant to their own lives.

Betsy JacksOPEN HOUSE: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole