New Studio Ribbon Cutting

Sunday, May 1, 11 am

Join us on Sunday May 1st to celebrate the offical opening of the New Studio and the 2016 exhibition, Thomas Cole: The Artist as Architect. The day begins at 11 am with refreshments, live music, and free admission. The ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of Thomas Cole’s New Studio begins at noon. Additionally, guests may purchase tickets to attend the Curator’s Talk with Annette Blaugrund to learn more about the 2016 exhibition. Tickets for the talk are $9 or $7 for members.

After many years of research and a successful capital campaign, the New Studio has been reconstructed on its original footprint across the lawn from the artist’s home in Catskill, New York. The exterior of the New Studio is an exact recreation of the building that Cole designed for use as his workspace for the last year of his life. The interior provides a museum-quality gallery that will now be used to illuminate Cole’s art and to highlight his extraordinary influence on American art – past, present, and future. The inaugural exhibition in this new space is Thomas Cole: The Artist as Architect.

The exhibition’s curator, Annette Blaugrund, is an independent scholar, author, and curator and was director of the National Academy Museum for 11 years. She has worked at the Brooklyn Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the New-York Historical Society, and has taught at Columbia University, where she earned her PhD in art history. She has written numerous books on American art and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy in 2008 and was named Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 1992.


rootNew Studio Ribbon Cutting

2016 Exhibition – Thomas Cole: The Artist as Architect

We are excited to announce our 2016 exhibition, curated by noted scholar Annette Blaugrund with the assistance of our associate curator Kate Menconeri, opening May 1, 2016 and on view through October 30, 2016. In celebration of the recreation of Thomas Cole’s self-designed Italianate studio at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, the exhibition and the accompanying book focus on Cole’s architectural interests through architectural elements in his paintings and drawings as well as in both his realized and visionary projects, expanding our understanding of the breadth of his talents and interests.

This exhibition is the inaugural exhibition to be held in the “New Studio” building and will include 26 paintings and drawings, as well as a scale model, two of the artist’s books about architecture, and primary source documents. The central work of the exhibition is Cole’s 1840 painting “The Architect’s Dream,” depicting the artist overlooking a panorama of architectural styles. Accompanying the exhibition will be a new hardcover book of the same title to be published and released on April 19, 2016 by The Monacelli Press. The exhibition will run from May 1 through October 30 at The Thomas Cole National Historic Site and then travel to The Columbus Museum of Art, where it will be on view from November 18 through February 12, 2017. Click here for the full press release.

The exhibition is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts as part of an over-arching project entitled “Thomas Cole and the Roots of the Conservation Movement,” designed to highlight the 19th-century tradition of conserving iconic American landscapes. Additional support is provided by the County Initiative Program of the Greene County Legislature, administered by the Greene County Council on the Arts. The accompanying printed publication is supported by the Wyeth Foundation for American Art and several individual funders.

Exhibition Catalogue

Credit: Thomas Cole, The Architect’s Dream, 1840, 53 x 84 in. Toledo Museum of Art

root2016 Exhibition – Thomas Cole: The Artist as Architect

Arrange a Group Visit

2023 Mask Policy: Face masks are optional in our interior spaces.

The following visit options are by appointment only. To book tickets for regularly scheduled offerings, visit the Buy Tickets page. To schedule a school visit, please visit the School Visits page.

Group Visit Package (June – October):

Best for groups of greater than 12 people. Upon arrival, your group will be welcomed and oriented by a knowledgeable member of the Site’s Education staff. A 15-20 minute introduction to the Site, the Cole family, and some common themes of Thomas Cole’s artwork is followed by time for guests to explore the historic buildings and exhibitions at their own pace in a self-guided experience. Knowledgeable staff members are located in all spaces to discuss ideas and answer questions. Package includes our Guide Book publication (one for each guest). This package is available from June through October only, Wednesdays through Sundays.

Group Rates: 
$22 per person (during the Peak Season of October, $24 per person). Rate includes Guide Book publication at a discounted rate of $4 ($6 value). Discounts do not apply to the group rates. Refunds are available for visits/tickets cancelled up to 24 hours in advance of a scheduled visit.


Group Visit (November):

Explore the historic Main House & Old Studio with knowledgeable staff members. This package is available in November only, Wednesdays through Sundays.

Group Rates: $22 per person Discounts do not apply to the group rates. Refunds are available for visits/tickets cancelled up to 24 hours in advance of a scheduled visit.


To make a group visit request, please fill out this form, and we will be in contact with you to schedule your visit.

Bus Parking

We strongly recommend that buses park along Hudson Avenue. Our Spring Street parking lot is unable to accommodate large buses and vehicles.

If you have questions, please email us at

Custom Guided Tour

Custom Tours are led by senior staff members. You may request for your tour to include specific areas depending on the interests of your group. Such topics might include the historic interior decoration and furnishings; a focus on a particular exhibition; or a behind the scenes look at the innovative Parlors installation. Availability of Custom Tours is limited, so please plan ahead.

Rates: $500 for up to 10 people. Each additional person is $50/each.

rootArrange a Group Visit

School Programs

Bring History to Life!

School programs at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site promote learning through student participation in history, art, literature and preservation.  Our programs encourage students to explore in new ways, making history come alive.

General Information

By participating in the Thomas Cole Historic Site’s school programs, students will build higher level thinking skills while investigating the life and times of America’s most influential landscape painter, Thomas Cole. Students’ investigations begin when your class receives a package of evidence in the mail as the basis for pre-visit activities. The evidence includes documents, photographs and a powerpoint presentation introducing the class to Thomas Cole, the Hudson River School of Art, and Cedar Grove. Afterwards the students visit the historic site and explore more evidence about the life and creative output of Thomas Cole. Students examine data, gather information, and draw conclusions from their personal experiences. All school programs meet New York State learning standards for grades K-12.

An introduction to Thomas Cole’s Story

Get kids engaged before they even step in the door. Beloved children’s book author and illustrator Hudson Talbott takes us on Thomas Cole’s adventure in “Picturing America: Thomas Cole And The Birth of American Art.”


1) Youth Tour

The students will visit the historic home, studios, and grounds of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. This special tour for students will pass through the historic flower garden and visit the site’s famous 200-year old Honey Locust Tree. The tour will then lead the group to the porch of the Main House, where perfect views of the Catskill Mountain range can be enjoyed. Students then enter the 1815 Federal yellow-brick Main House and tour the historic rooms where the Cole family lived, including the West Parlor where Thomas Cole was married. The Main House also includes gallery rooms, where exhibitions of art from the Hudson River School are on display. The tour continues into the “Old Studio” where Cole painted many of his best known works. The studio still contains Cole’s original easels and art-making materials.  The tour also includes a visit to the “New Studio” and the special exhibition inside it. This program lasts approximately one hour and costs $4-8 per student, on a sliding scale.

2) Thomas Cole and the Creative Process

Students examine Thomas Cole’s 1839 painting studio and learn what it was like to be an artist in the 19th century.  Students learn about the life of Thomas Cole, the Hudson River School of Art, and about the historic site.  The students then create sketches based on their experiences and turn these sketches into original paintings.  This program involves a youth tour and art project.  The entire program lasts approximately 2.5 hours and the cost is $6-12 per student, on a sliding scale.

Program Details

School Programs are offered Wednesday through Friday 9:30am to 1:00pm, May through October. Please make your group’s reservation at least one month in advance in order to secure your desired date and time.

Group size
Groups larger than 75 students may be accommodated when split over the course of two days.


For More Information

Contact: Heather Paroubek, Education Manager:


rootSchool Programs

The Village of Catskill in the Hudson Valley

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site sits near the Hudson River with a view of the Catskill Mountains, surrounded by other cultural destinations, lively restaurants, and world-renowned natural beauty. 

If you’re looking to plan your visit to the historic site, click here. To plan the rest of your stay, check out our recommendations below. From dazzling hikes in the Great Northern Catskills to the best places to sleep, we’ve got you covered.

When Thomas Cole first traveled up the Hudson River in 1825, he fell in love with this picturesque village on the water. Today, the Village of Catskill welcomes you with beautiful 19th-century architecture along the historic main street with shops and galleries, river activities including fishing and boating, waterfront restaurants, and an Audubon nature preserve where if you’re lucky you can spot a Bald Eagle.

General Visiting Information


The official website for visiting Greene County, where the Thomas Cole Site is located. This website includes a comprehensive listing of places to stay, places to eat, sights, activities and outdoor adventures.

Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area: A user-friendly website with in-depth information about the historic, cultural and natural resources of the Hudson River Valley. You can see a list of recommended sights to visit, create your own itinerary, or request free maps and brochures about visiting the Hudson River Valley.


Where to Eat

In Catskill…

Avalon Lounge, Music venue with a Korean kitchen. Right off Main Street.

Ambrosia Diner, A classic retro diner.

Crossroads Brewing Co, A water-front tap room and brewery in Catskill.

Gracie’s Luncheonette, A stylish diner where everything is homemade, right down to the ketchup. Located in nearby Leeds.

Hartland on Hudson, One of a kind stationery and coffee bar. Located in nearby Leeds.

New York Restaurant, The local spot for lunch and dinner. Right on Main Street.

Port of Call, Waterfront dining and seafood.

Willa’s Bakery Cafe, A waterfront breakfast and lunch spot on Catskill Creek. Just off Main Street.


Where to Stay

Photo by The Catskill Milliner

Photo by The Catskill Milliner

The Catskill Milliner: Boutique guest house and inn located just blocks from Catskill’s Main Street, the Thomas Cole Site, and the Hudson River.

Catskill Village House: Located on Main Street in the historic Village of Catskill, an entire home to rent with all your friends.

Hotel Mountain Brook: Adirondack-style lodge in Hunter with views of the Catskill Mountains

Hudson Milliner: A boutique guesthouse and inn located in the City of Hudson, across the river.

The Kaaterskill: A Farm Estate in the outskirts of the Town of Catskill.

The Morgan State House: The Hudson River Valley Painters Package

Scribner’s Catskill Lodge:  Recently reopened following an extensive renovation for a new generation of urban explorers,  the lodge features thoughtful design, friendly service, and delicious food and drinks in a mountain setting.

The Stewart House:  A recently renovated 11-room “River House” in nearby Athens, NY that first opened its doors in 1883 with a restaurant.

The Wick, A new full-service boutique hotel in Hudson, NY.

WM Farmer and Sons: Rustic chic accommodations and restaurant in Hudson, NY.


Nearby Attractions

Hudson River School Art Trail: Take a drive to the nearby views that Thomas Cole painted.

Hudson River Skywalk: See America’s first canvas with the Hudson River Skywalk, a new historic and scenic walkway at the place where American landscape painting began. The new walkway connects the Thomas Cole Site with Frederic Church’s Olana over the Rip Van Winkle.

Mountain Top Arboretum: A public garden in the Catskill Mountains, with trails connecting 178 acres of plant collections, meadows, wetlands, forest, and more.

RamsHorn-Livingston Audubon Sanctuary: Located in the Village of Catskill, this compact sanctuary contains over 436 acres of tidal marsh and swamp, upland forests and fallow farm fields. Keep your eyes peeled for Bald Eagles.

Scenic Hudson and Greene Land Trusts’ Mawignack Preserve: One mile loop trail along Catskill Creek, an area that Thomas Cole painted more than any other subject.

Olana State Historic Site: Just two miles away is the magnificent home of artist Frederic Church.

The Greene County Historical Society: Nine miles north is the Bronck Museum, the Hudson Valley’s oldest home, built in 1663.

City of Hudson: Across the Rip Van Winkle Bridge is this hopping city with shopping, restaurants and antiques.



Amtrak Station: Located in Hudson, NY, about a 10-minute drive from the Cole Site

Hudson Region Transport LLC 

Cubs Taxi and Airport Service

There is limited taxi service and limited Uber and Lyft availability in the area, so please plan ahead.


Maps for download

Hiking in Greene County

Antiques and Country Stores

Nearby Attractions

Greene County Driving Tours

Itineraries for the Hudson River School Art Trail

rootThe Village of Catskill in the Hudson Valley

Cole’s 19th-century art studio getting a facelift


By Fred Johnsen, Freeman staff


THOMAS Edison had Menlo Park, Theodore Roosevelt had Sagamore Hill, and within these places were “inner sanctums.” For Edison his laboratory, for Roosevelt his trophy room.

In Catskill, the inner sanctum of Hudson River School of Art founder Thomas Cole is gaining new life.

Restoration began Wednesday on Cole’s “Old Studio” at the Cedar Grove Historic Site, where he lived. The project, expected to take about seven months, will entail a full restoration of the building, of which the studio is a part.

SITE DIRECTOR Betsy Jacks said the U.S. National Park Service considers the project to be the most significant restoration going on in the United States today.

“This site has been, for a long time, neglected,” Jacks said. “Like the Hudson River School of Art, it is experiencing a revival. Piece by piece, we’re putting it back together the way it looked in Cole’s time” in the 19th century.

Jacks said that, unlike Cole’s house, the studio is less visible but vastly important. It was in the studio that Cole (1801-48) painted his four-piece series “Voyage of Life” that used landscape as metaphor to depict man’s journey from birth to death.

“This (studio) is perhaps the most important piece,” Jacks said. “The house is the most visible from the street, but the studio is where it all happened.”

DIMENSIONS North of Catskill is the contractor for the restoration project. Company owner Richard Rappleyea said his crew had removed tons of material by Friday, some going to a dump and better pieces being saved.

“We’re going to be taking the studio back to the way it was when Thomas Cole used it when he was doing his paintings,” Rappleyea said.

The project is being overseen by the National Park Service bureau in Boston and will be completed in two phases. Phase 1e carries a price tag of $329,000 and will consist of exterior and studio restoration and structural repairs. Phase 2, which does not yet have an estimated cost, will center on the former barn area that will be used for a visitors’ center and gift shop.

Rappleyea said restoration of the studio alone entails removing several windows not part of the original “purpose built” studio. According to Rappleyea and Jacks, Cole preferred to paint by light coming from the north because northern light provided even illumination without shadows or glare.

Jacks said the studio itself will be restored with the idea in mind that “Cole just stepped out.” This includes the placement of many articles used by Cole, including his paint box, easel and chair.

Buildings on the Cole property originally used for horses and storage will restored authentically, with possible with the planned uses in mind.

CEDAR Grove Building and Grounds Committee Chairman Jack Van Loan said beginning work on the studio is exciting both locally and nationally.

“It’s exciting and a very, very important step for us, the community and the people of the county because we’re saving one of American’s treasures,” Van Loan said.

The project is being funded through a Save America’s Treasures grant and the Catskill-Olana Viewshed Mitigation Fund.


©Daily Freeman 2005 Originally found at

rootCole’s 19th-century art studio getting a facelift

An American Viruoso of Urgent Vision


By: TIMOTHY CAHILL Staff writer

Sunday, August 15, 2004

“To walk with nature as a poet,” wrote Thomas Cole, “is the necessary condition of a perfect artist.”

Ralph Albert Blakelock met this condition, and his finest paintings approach a level of expressive excellence one might call perfection. His life was beset with trouble, however, and it is the turmoil of his private nature that was the artist’s most constant companion.

In the history of American art, Blakelock’s place is small but worthy of attention. An exhibit of 32 paintings and a number of drawings and sketches now at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill demonstrate he was a visionary whose best landscapes strike with the force of a depth charge.

The show is a brief introduction to the artist, and a welcome one. I mostly knew his paintings from reproductions, which is not to know them at all. Several of the works here come from the Salander-O’Reilly Galleries in New York City, augmented with seldom-seen paintings from local museums and private collections.

Elizabeth Stevens of Salander-O’Reilly assembled the exhibit, which also includes historic objects including Blakelock’s leather-covered sketchbook, his palette and a dinged metal paint box, crowded with smeared, half-used paint tubes. Some of the items were supplied by Blakelock’s descendants, who still reside in Greene County, and have never been displayed before. Most remarkable is a hand-drawn map of the Western states the artist Blakelock visited; written on the back is a long list of the towns he stopped in.

A fitting location

The Cole home Cedar Grove is a fitting location for the exhibit, since Blakelock’s first inspiration came from the Hudson River School. He was born in 1847, the year before Cole died, and grew up in New York City. Blakelock taught himself how to paint, emulating first the meticulous and reverent styles of Cole, Asher B. Durand and Frederic Church. In his 20s, at an age when other artists looked to Europe for training and refinement, Blakelock traveled alone on his first of three trips out West.

In the 1870s, Blakelock found his artistic voice, abandoning the tidiness of the Hudson River painters for an expressive style built on color and energy. An untitled painting from 1870 shows a log cabin in a mountain glade. It isn’t the scene that captures the artist’s attention, but the brilliant clash of crimson and fading orange of the fall foliage.

Blakelock used color the way certain composers use percussion, to set his art in violent motion. His “Indian Encampment,” of a single tepee in a woodland setting, glows a restless ocher. In a nearby untitled landscape, the evening sky resembles a lava flow. And an undated “Sunset” is a raucous solo of russet beneath layers of blue-gray and pale yellow glazes.

Artistic slang

Blakelock was admired by painters Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock for the expressiveness of his paint. He often laid on pigment thick, as if he couldn’t get it out of the tube and onto the canvas fast enough. He was speaking in an artistic slang that time would catch up with eventually. Had Blakelock lived 50 years later, he might well have been a pioneer of abstraction.

The arc of his career moved Blakelock away from representation to realms of memory and emotion. Look at “Indian Ocean,” from 1919, the year the painter died. It’s an almost minimalist composition, with a still, hard-edged horizon. Above, the blue-gray sky looks rubbed on with rags, while the moonlight in the waves is almost pointillist in its juxtaposition of color. You can’t see the moon itself in the painting; it’s somewhere above the frame.

Nocturnes were a common motif for Blakelock. One of the show’s masterpieces is on the stairway leading up to the second-floor gallery, titled simply “Moonlight.” Dated uncertainly between 1880 and 1899, the painting shows a full moon in a blue-green sky. The moon is bright, but, except for the reflection on a small pond, the landscape in it is thrown into an opaque murk. Why isn’t there more light on the scene? Can we read it as a metaphor for that tumultuous time in Blakelock’s life, when money to support his nine children was scare, and he was sometimes forced to paint trinkets in a factory, or mass-produce banal landscapes?

Whatever the reason, the darkness of the earth only accentuates the brilliance of the moon. Blakelock, like Robert Frost, was “one acquainted with the night.” He understood the cold, mesmerizing lunar light. Only van Gogh painted moons with as much melancholy ardor.

The moon is the lantern of eccentrics and the beacon of madmen. In the 1890s, Blakelock began to manifest mental illness that eventually institutionalized him for most of the rest of his life. The end of the show has several paintings made during his confinement at the Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital for the Insane in Middletown, Orange County rough, quick oil sketches that seem at once to be a collective wail and refuge. One, a nighttime idyll with two figures, suggests a wistful longing for youth.

Like his more famous contemporary Albert Pinkham Ryder, Ralph Blakelock spoke in the indigenous voice of the soul. His paintings have the primal urgency of seekers who never quite find what they’re looking for.

Timothy Cahill can be reached at 454-5084 or FACTS:ART REVIEW “RALPH EDWARD BLAKELOCK” Where: Thomas Cole National Historic Site, 218 Spring St., Catskill Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday Closes: Oct. 31 Admission: $5 (includes tour of the Cole house)Info: 943-7465;

All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2005, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.

rootAn American Viruoso of Urgent Vision

Inside the artist’s studio: Cole’s work space being restored


By Jonathan Ment, Freeman staff


AN OLD barn behind the Thomas Cole house on Spring Street in Catskill has been an antiques shop, an apartment house and, yes, a residence for animals.

But before all that, half the structure served as a storehouse and an art studio for Cole, the founder of the 19th-century art movement known as the Hudson River School.

The studio, built in 1839 and believed to be the first purposely constructed artist’s studio in America, will reopen Oct. 3. In the modest wood-and-brick structure, Cole painted his most widely distributed series, “The Voyage of Life” – a series of four paintings, each measuring more than 4 by 6 feet.

Grants totaling nearly $500,000 from the preservation group Save America’s Treasures; the Catskill-Olana Scenic Mitigation Fund, funded by Athens Generating; and Benjamin Moore & Co. will, by that time, have restored the studio to the way it looked in the 1840s.

BETSY Jacks, director of Cedar Grove, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, said work on the property is overseen by the National Park Service, which has done extensive research to determine what the site was like originally. The property is owned by the Greene County Historical Society.

“As we opened a wall, we found an original shutter,” Jacks said.

Finds like that, numerous paintings created in the studio and early photographs of the property helped direct the restoration, which includes all period materials. “If it’s not from the 1830s or 1840s, it has to go,” Jacks said. “(But) we had a painting, from the 1860s, that is so detailed we can identify the flowers. We are in the process of restoring or replanting the original flowers.”

AND THROUGH scientific analysis of soils and rocks, the precise locations of the original gardens’ on the grounds were identified.

“In contrast to Olana (almost across the Hudson River in Columbia County), this was a working farm,” Jacks said. “Olana was a park. Here, they had chickens running around.”

Olana is the Persian-style mansion and studio built by Frederic Church, a Hudson River School painter from later in the 19th century who was a student of Cole’s.

“In the early days, American art wasn’t popular,” Jacks said. “Cole was a pioneer.”

WHEN THE barn at the Cole house was being built, Cole sought to include a 19-by-20-foot space in which to work. He used what now is known as the Storehouse Studio for seven years before building a more elaborate Italianate-styled studio that no longer stands. (It was demolished in the 1920s.)

“The loss of historic buildings really cuts deep,” Jacks said. The barn almost fell, too, she said, because “it was in such bad shape.”

“We’re really just lucky that it came down to us,” she said. AS AN architect, Cole designed that second studio, a church in Catskill that since has been replaced, a privy that still stands at Cedar Grove and a home for his family that never was built because his main patron died.

“He never became a wealthy man,” Jacks said.

THE COLE house, on property that belonged to John Alexander Thomson, the uncle of Cole’s wife, Maria Bartow, is now a museum. Some of the family’s possessions, auctioned on the front lawn in the 1960s, have been returned, including Cole’s hat and box and the family china. Other displays include period items like those that Cole and his wife may have owned.

A collection of paintings previously spread throughout the house has been brought together in the North Gallery. On one canvas, a massive honey locust tree standing several feet from the main entrance can be seen in its younger days in an 1868 painting by Charles Herbert Moore.

Against the opposite wall is a display case filled with Cole’s rock collection, a sketch book, and a slab of stone found in the storehouse bearing a drawing authenticated to be the work of the artist.

“It was a doorstop, found here in the late 1990s,” Jacks said. It was holding open a door in the storehouse, where a tenant had lived until then.

RENOVATIONS at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site will continue to follow a general management plan required by the National Park Service.

Jacks said the site is following the third of three alternative courses of action. “The first is to do nothing,” she said.

The next stage in the site development won’t reflect life as it was during Cole’s time but will include a modern visitors’ center in the balance of the barn that houses the Storehouse Studio.

“If someone gives us another half-million dollars, I’m ready to do it now,” said Jacks, who previously worked as marketing director at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

THE GRAND opening celebration for the Storehouse Studio will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 3 and is open to the public. Special exhibitions and presentations are planned.

The museum plans to regularly host temporary exhibits, such as a collection of work by Ralph Albert Blakelock, which is on display through Oct. 31.

For more information about Cedar Grove, visit the Web site

©Daily Freeman 2005 Originally found at

rootInside the artist’s studio: Cole’s work space being restored

Restored Studio Paints a Life


By: Timothy Cahill

Sunday, September 19, 2004


“Do you know that I have got a new painting-room?” wrote Thomas Cole to fellow painter Asher B. Durand near the end of 1839. “It answers pretty well … and being removed from the noise and bustle of the house, is really charming.”


Cole’s enthusiasm for his new work space came at a time when the artist was perhaps the most highly regarded American painter of his time. The studio, part of a much larger storage barn, is just steps from the main house at Cedar Grove, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill.


As the latest phase of a long-term project to preserve the place where American landscape painting was born, the “Storehouse Studio” has undergone a complete restoration and will open to the public from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3.


Cedar Grove consists of the painter’s 1815 three-story Federal-style house, 3 1/2 acres of grounds and outbuildings. Cole was the leader of the artistic movement called the Hudson River School. To have his work space intact and returned to its original condition marks a significant milestone in American cultural history.


“In many ways, this is the most important building (on the site),” observes Elizabeth Jacks, executive director of Cedar Grove. “If you start from the premise that the most important thing about Thomas Cole is his painting, then it follows that the most important building is the place that he painted. The house tells the story of his life and how he lived, but the studio tells the story of his work, of how he worked and where he worked.”


Among the masterpieces Cole produced in the 20-by-20-foot space is his four-part painting “The Voyage of Life,” perhaps his best-known work.


The $450,000 restoration began in February. Following Cole’s death in 1848, the studio was used as a storage shed, an antiques shop and finally a studio apartment. Re-creating the studio involved removing 20th-century materials and ripping out a makeshift loft to restore a ceiling nearly 12 feet high. Timbers salvaged from old barns were used to repair rotting infrastructure beams, and antique bricks brought in to rebuild interior masonry walls.


The studio is furnished with Cole’s materials, including his easels, a paint box and brushes, plaster casts and reference books. Period materials like those the artist was known to have used, including a camera obscura and magic lantern (an early slide projector), are also included.


“It adds a whole new dimension to understanding the man,” says Jacks of the studio. “You can get a lot of information from what we have. Cole was not a wealthy man — this was a space in a barn.


“The paintings he was working on were often more than 6 feet wide, he had to take his canvases off the stretchers to get them through the door,” Jacks adds. “And you can imagine what it was like in the winter. There’s a fireplace at one end, but Hudson Valley winters get cold. For me, I get a sense of his perseverance.”


All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2005, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.


rootRestored Studio Paints a Life

Found Underground


By: Bonnie Langston, Freeman staff


The next Sunday salon at the Catskill home of Thomas Cole, founder of the famed 19th-century Hudson River School of painting, will be led by a man who learned of the artist a relatively short time ago and in a rather unusual venue – a New York City subway stop.

The presenter is Manhattan’s David Barnes, and the image he saw a decade ago on a poster in the subway was of Cole’s “The Picnic,” then part of a retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. When Barnes saw the show, its impact changed his life.

“I can’t even tell you how powerful that was, he said in a telephone interview from his office at J.P. Morgan Investments in Brooklyn.

“I said, ‘That’s it. I want to learn everything there is to know about this guy.”

Barnes set out to do that, and as he rattles off dates of paintings, details of exhibits, information about the style and influence of the Hudson River School and all kinds of other minutia, one suspects he has either arrived or at least come very close to his goal. Barnes’ interest in Cole led him to become a member of Cedar Grove’s board of advisors as well as a docent at the New-York Historical Society. He led the first salon of the year at Cole’s home earlier this month, talking about the painter’s series masterpieces “The Course of Empire” – in the collection of the above-mentioned historical society – and “The Voyage of Life,” both created at the height of Cole’s career.

In the next salon, Feb. 13, Barnes will explore Cole’s influence on other artists by way of a slide lecture.

The program has been increased to two sessions, 2 and 3:30 p.m., because of the standing-room-only crowd at this year’s initial event.

“For a winter Sunday, it turned out to be fantastic,” said Barry Hencks, a spokesperson and volunteer at Cedar Grove. Hencks said he counted nearly 45 vehicles in the parking lot, making the recent presentation at the salon – in its second year – the largest off-season event at the historical site.

That is a major change for the 1815 Federal brick home that had been allowed to decay for two decades, leaving it with a crumbling porch, caved-in roof, peeling paint and a flooded basement.

Restoration was far enough along in the spring of 2001 for the home’s first major opening, in celebration of the bicentennial of Cole’s birth.

A year ago, Elizabeth Jacks came on as director, and a search is underway for the site’s first educational director. In addition, Cole’s renovated “Old Studio” opened to the public fewer than four months ago.

Barnes, distraught by the home’s earlier disrepair, joined forces more than four years ago with others to further aid its rebirth. Like second-generation Hudson River School artist Jasper Cropsey, who visited Cole’s home in 1850, two years after the painter’s death, Barnes has found that Cole’s essence remains.

“Artists talked about this feeling for years after he died,” Barnes said. “His spirit just pervades.”

It certainly touched others in the Hudson River School. Frederic Edwin Church, whose home Olana is a short distance from Hudson, was most influenced by Cole, Barnes said.

“He was Cole’s first and most prominent student. Church was 18 years old, a young kid,” he said. “He really became the rock star of his day. For his ‘Heart of the Andes,’ people lined up around the block to see it (for 25 cents each at Lyrique Hall in New York City).”

At least 12,000 visitors eventually viewed the mammoth work – 66 1/8 by 119 1/4 inches – which they viewed with theater glasses. Visitors to the salon in February will see a slide image of the painting now owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Like Cole, the younger man portrayed both geological and botanical forms in exacting detail, Barnes said. But unlike his mentor Church tended to represent an entire series in one painting, a “visual feast” known for its profusion of detail and range of atmosphere.

Also unlike Cole, Church lived in an era in which landscapes were gaining more respect. For instance, Barnes said in the early 1840s, a few years before Cole’s death, 1 out of 10 works exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York City were landscapes. A decade later, landscapes dominated, he said.

That does not mean Cole’s work went unappreciated. He made a living from his paintings. And works like “The Voyage of Life” gained much attention.

“Artists loved it. People responded to it,” Barnes said.

But the work was exhibited only a few times. For one thing, there was little opportunity to show art during Cole’s lifetime.

The first permanent art gallery in the United States, The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Conn., opened in 1844, four years before Cole’s death. Cole’s “Course of the Empire,” was shown there, and Barnes said today the museum has one of the best collections of Hudson River School paintings.

He said, too, that he is grateful for that fateful day when he glimpsed an image of Cole’s work at a New York City subway station. And he enjoys telling visitors to Cedar Grove all about it.

“I came to love Cole probably the way that he would have wanted – through his art,” he said.


©Daily Freeman 2005 Originally found at

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