Summer Party Live Auction

Live Auction

The 2016 Summer Party will feature a live auction of four first-class vacation destinations, and all proceeds will benefit of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. If you wish to place an absentee bid, please call Carrie at 518-943-7465 extension 4 before Friday the 24th at 4 pm.

Luxury in the Black Forest

Indulge your wanderlust for three nights for two at the 5-Star Traube Tonbach, nestled in one of Europe’s most magnificent landscapes, the Black Forest National Park in Germany. Feel the forest with all your senses, leave your daily routine behind, enjoy the scent of the firs and the stunning views. Let tension disappear in the fragrant floral steam of the bio sauna. Includes elaborate breakfasts, dinners with wine pairing, and two spa treatments per person. No restrictions on dates. Value: $2500


Antique Maison in the Loire Valley

Since the reign of Louis XIV, the 3-storey, 2-bedroom “Maison du Soliel” has graced the square in Pontlevoy, a charming and quiet village in the heart of the Loire Valley, about 2 1/2 hours from Paris. Nearby are the chateaux at Blois, Leonardo da Vinci’s Amboise, plus Chenonceau, Villandry (known for its gardens), the massive Chambord, and many more. Enjoy a full week in the region of Sauvignon Blanc and Sancerre, delightful small restaurants, plenty of brocantes for antique-hunters, and a goat cheese farm right in Pontlevoy which New York Magazine once called “the best chevre in France.”  Available year-round. Value $2000


True Parisian Experience at Quartier Latin

Enjoy an entire week in the hip and lively Latin Quarter of Paris in your own studio apartment in a 17th-century building located at 24, rue de l’Arbalète in Paris, 5th arrondissement, just off rue Mouffetard. Pantheon, Sorbonne and Notre Dame are a short and lovely walk away. Quartier Latin’s winding streets are filled with ethnic eateries, second hand bookstores and bohemian history. The flat features a double bed and high-speed internet. A bottle of champagne and a platter of cheese and fruit will be ready for you upon your arrival. Value $2100


A Week at Pezula Ridge, Private Estate

This cliff-top architectural masterpiece with 180-degree views of the Indian Ocean, sparkling pool with waterfall, stone fireplaces and easy access to the spa, golf course and clubhouse is located along the “Garden Route” in Knysna, an old artistic village south of Capetown, South Africa, in the spectacular wine lands. Sleeps 8-10! Includes housekeeper and house manager. Available July 1-Oct 30, 2016, and again May 1-Oct 30, 2017. Value $8000. Additional photos below:

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Betsy JacksSummer Party Live Auction

Learn about the Hudson River School

In the early nineteenth century, many in this country were searching for a style of art that they could call their own – something distinct from Europe. Painter, poet, and essayist Thomas Cole (1801-1848) responded to this quest by creating American landscape paintings unlike any yet seen. His vision of majestic mountains and tangled forests stood in stark contrast to the gentle landscape images that had come before.

Influential people of the nascent New York cultural scene embraced his work enthusiastically, and Cole became the leader of an informal alliance of landscape artists now known as the Hudson River School. Cole, Asher Durand, Susie M. Barstow, Frederic Church, Sanford Gifford, Jasper Cropsey, and other painters, along with literary figures such as William Cullen Bryant and James Fenimore Cooper, forged a self-consciously “American” style and landscape vision for what was still a relatively new nation.

The artists of the Hudson River School were united by their belief that their art might lead to spiritual renewal and contribute to the formation of a uniquely American national culture.

Explore Thomas Cole’s paintings in depth

Read a brief Thomas Cole bio

Learn about his home called Cedar Grove

See a list of prominent figures of the Hudson River School

See a list of recommended further reading

Get information especially for collectors

Visit the page for Thomas Cole’s NEW STUDIO

Painting: Thomas Cole, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, After A Thunderstorm (The Oxbow), 1836, The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

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Hudson River School Art Trail Itineraries

Below are several suggested itineraries for exploring the Hudson River School Art Trail – the driving and walking trail to the views that are depicted in some of the best known 19th-century landscape paintings. If you have a smartphone or tablet, you can bring all of the paintings along with you and have the fun of comparing the painted and actual views by visiting this site: Also, from May through October, you can join a guided hike that departs from the Thomas Cole Historic Site. See the current schedule of hikes and other programs.

Enjoy your journey.

One-Day Highlights Tour

Sites 1, 2, 4 and 5.

See some of the most spectacular sites, all in one day! Start at the #1 site on the Trail, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site at 9:30 am, watch the introductory film about the Hudson River School, and take the 10 am tour of the place where American art began. Next, head to Olana, site #2 on the Trail, which is less than 3 miles away, and brace yourself for one of the most beautiful views in all of North America. Take the 11:30 am tour (reserve in advance by calling (518) 828-0135) of the magnificent home of the artist Frederic Church, shop for an artistic souvenir, and then head to lunch in nearby Hudson or Catskill. After lunch, drive to site #4 on the Trail for a view of majestic Kaaterskill Clove. Leave your car there and take the 1-mile hike up to Kaaterskill Falls.

“Into the Wild” Weekend

Day 1: Sites 12, 13, 14 and 2
Day 2: Sites 1, 4, 5 and 7

Escape to nature and hike to some of the most glorious views on the East Coast. Start at the Mohonk Mountain House, a resort that dates back to the 19th-century. Ask for a trail map at the gate house and explore the beautifully maintained trails with 100-mile views of the region, encompassing Trail sites #12, 13 and 14. Enjoy an outdoor barbecue for lunch at Mohonk’s The Granary overlooking New Paltz’s Lake Mohonk. Drive approximately one hour to Olana, site #2 on the Trail, and brace yourself for one of the most beautiful views in all of North America. Take the guided tour (reserve in advance by calling (518) 828-0135) of the magnificent home of the artist Frederic Church, shop for an artistic souvenir, and then head to dinner in nearby Hudson or Catskill, both of which have Bed & Breakfasts for your overnight stay. The next day, start at the #1 site on the Trail, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, watch the introductory film about the Hudson River School, and take the guided tour of the place where American art began. Head to lunch on Catskill’s historic Main Street or at The Point restaurant on the banks of the Hudson River, then drive up into the 300,000-acre Catskill Forest Preserve. Park and enjoy Trail site #4 right from the parking lot. If you have time, hike the one mile trek up to Kaaterskill Falls, a double waterfall that combined reaches 260 feet, the highest waterfall in New York State! Compare the view to Thomas Cole’s famous 1826 painting of the same, then make your way back down the trail to the sights and sounds of tumbling waters all the way. Drive around into the North-South Lake State Park, get a trail map at the gate house, and start your two-hour round-trip hike along the dizzying heights of the Escarpment Trail, with views that encompass the length of the Hudson River and three states. Return the way you came and reward yourself with a hearty dinner in nearby Hunter or Tannersville.

Fun Family Outing

Sites 4, 6 and 8

Your first step into the colorful and magical world of the Hudson River School is at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, where your Art Trail Passport awaits. Pick up your passports at the gift shop located in the visitor center, watch a short intro film about the Hudson River School and, with passport and pencils in hand, journey into the artistic heart of the Catskills. Be sure to stop at nearby Catskill Country Store, located just about one mile from the Thomas Cole Site at 430 Main Street, Catskill, or at Natalie’s Nook which is also on Main Street, to grab sandwiches, salads and more for a picnic on the trail.

From here, drive along Route 23A until you cross over a large waterfall and come to a small parking lot on your left, located approximately 15 miles from Catskill. Park and walk to the far side of the lot where you can see a view through Kaaterskill Clove, site #4. There you will find an exhibit panel with several paintings of the same view reproduced there. Using your passports and a pencil, you can make a rubbing of the metal plaque that is attached to the sign.

If you have older children and if you have enough time, leave your car right there and walk back along Route 23A to the trailhead to Kaaterskill Falls, site #5. As the largest cascading waterfall in New York State, it is little wonder Cole and many of his disciples stopped here to capture on canvas their first impressions of the Catskills. The one mile hike into the falls offers scenic beauty, plenty of opportunity for sketching on your own, and a well-marked trail that entices with the smells of the forest and distant thunder of the majestic waterfall. However, it is steep in places and not appropriate for small children. Find a quiet spot at the base of the falls and enjoy your picnic or simply relax while the rush of the falls creates its own music all around you. At the end of your hike, stop by the Art Trail Marker to complete the passport rubbing before heading to site #6, North-South Lake.

The North-South Lake Campground is a popular destination that offers swimming, boating and fishing, perfect for a day of family fun. A small day-use fee is required at the entrance gate where you should request a map of the campground and nearby hiking trails. Drive to the edge of the lake, site #6, and record the sights and sounds of the journey in your passport, utilizing one of Thomas Cole’s own painting techniques. Cole captured the scenic beauty in little reminders and sketches, making notes about the color of flowers, trees and the sky before returning to his studio to paint.

Enjoy the family-friendly atmosphere of North-South Lake, go for a swim, enjoy your picnic if you have not already done so, and then head to Site #8 on the Art Trail, the former location of the Catskill Mountain House. The trailhead is located at the campground and follows the Catskill Escarpment Trail to a ledge rising 1,600 feet above the Hudson River Valley. Complete your rubbing and enjoy the inspiring view that on a clear day encompasses five states and remains almost unchanged since Cole’s time.

Three-Day Grand Tour

Day 1: Site 17

Day 2: Sites 15, 2 and 9

Day 3: Sites 1, 4 and 5

Day 1:

The grand tour of the Hudson River Art Trail offers an in-depth exploration of the places that inspired America’s first artistic style. Start at site #17, the charming home and studio of painter Jasper Cropsey. Take a guided tour of both Cropsey’s home and studio, known as “Ever Rest,” by appointment on weekday mornings. To reserve a tour, phone (914) 478-1372.

Take a break and walk or drive the mile to nearby MacEchron Waterfront Park on the Hudson River. Picnic or stop at any one of the nearby restaurants and enjoy the inspiring views before heading back to site #17 for a tour though the museum’s collection of Crospey originals. The museum, shown by appointment only, houses a large collection of Cropsey paintings. See some of the best views and compare Cropsey’s painting Ravine at Hastings to the exact spot the artist captured.

Head into the charming town of Rhinebeck and continue the search for your own Hudson Valley treasures in antique shops, find art supplies and jewelry, as well as clothing shops and outdoor gear. Enjoy an overnight stay at the Beekman Arms, a stately inn located in the heart of the historic village. Reminisce about the day’s delights in front of a roaring fire or relax outside on the stone patio before dinner at The Tavern at the Beekman Arms.

Day 2:

Day two of the grand tour will find you following in the footsteps of the Vanderbilts and German-born Hudson River School painter Johann Hermann Carmiencke. The painter, who had already achieved success in Denmark, emigrated to the United States when war broke out between Germany and Denmark in the mid-1800s. One of Carmiencke’s most famous paintings, Hyde Park: View Up the Hudson, was painted from what would become the west portico and grounds of the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, stop #15 on the Art Trail. For $8 per person, enjoy a guided tour of the house and grounds year-round, and enjoy Carmiencke’s vista from the great lawns. Children 15 years and younger can take the tour for free.

After touring site #15, head to site #2, Olana State Historic Site – the former home of the prolific Frederic Edwin Church, one of the Hudson River School’s most celebrated painters. Find the medallion in the visitor center and make your rubbing before heading to site #9, Mount Merino and the Catskills, on the banks of the Hudson River in Promenade Park. Located at the foot of Warren Street just a few miles from Olana, the scenic vista was captured by Sanford Robinson Gifford in 1864 in his painting titled, South Bay, on the Hudson, Near Hudson, New York.

Enjoy wandering the cosmopolitan, yet charming city of Hudson for legendary antique shopping and great restaurants for dinner before checking in for the night at one of the many bed and breakfasts.

Day 3:

Day three of the grand tour will find you visiting the home of Thomas Cole and touring along some of the first vistas captured by Hudson River School painters. Begin the day with a visit to Site #1, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, a 5-mile drive from the City of Hudson that takes you over the beautiful Rip Van Winkle Bridge. Open your Art Trail passport and make a rubbing of the medallion at the Thomas Cole site, enjoy the scenic vista as well as tours through both Cole’s house and his studio.

Take a walk over the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, which is less than a mile’s walk or drive from the Thomas Cole site, and enjoy the stirring views of the Hudson River and the scenic riverbank. Head back toward Catskill, and stop at Frank Guido’s Port of Call and enjoy a casual lunch along the Hudson River waterfront or visit Catskill’s historic Main Street for a quick bite.

Traveling from the river to the mountains, head to site #4, Kaaterskill Clove. Located on Route 23A in Palenville, the 10-mile drive from Catskill to the trailhead is dotted with scenic views. Captured by Asher B. Durand in 1866 and many other artists before and since, the Clove remains a stunning and well-preserved landscape. Cloves, which are clefts in the mountains, are distinctive to the Catskills, and were often painted by Hudson River School artists. Don’t forget to do the medallion rubbing at site #4.

From Kaaterskill Clove, head to site #5, Kaaterskill Falls – the largest cascading waterfall in New York State and your final stop on the grand tour. Painted first by Thomas Cole in 1826, and then by his many followers, Kaaterskill Falls remains a majestic and inspiring landmark destination for all who travel in Thomas Cole’s footsteps. Do the rubbing and then head for home. You have completed the three-day grand tour.

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Prominent Figures: List of Artists

The following is a partial list of major and minor artists of the Hudson River School of landscape painting. This genre was popularized by well over 100 artists during a period that lasted from 1825 through approximately 1890. Significant, known relationships with Thomas Cole or Cedar Grove are shown in bold.

Henry Ary c. 1807 – 1852
Alfred Fitch Bellows 1829 – 1883
Albert Bierstadt 1830 – 1902
DeWitt Clinton Boutelle 1820 – 1884
James Renwick Brevoort 1832 – 1918
Alfred Thompson Bricher 1837 – 1908
Albert D’Orient Browere 1814 – 1887
William Mason Brown 1828 – 1898
John Hermann Carmiencke 1810 – 1867
John William Casilear 1811 – 1893
Benjamin Champney 1817 – 1907
Charles H. Chapin 1830 – 1898

Frederic Edwin Church
Studied two years under Cole at Cedar Grove; later hired Theodore Cole to work at Olana
1826 – 1900
Charles Codman

Thomas Cole

1800 – 1842


Samuel Colman, Jr. 1832 – 1920
Jasper Francis Cropsey 1823 – 1900
Thomas Doughty 1793 – 1856
Robert S. Duncanson 1821 – 1872

Asher B. Durand
Close friend and established engraver; Cole encouraged him to become a painter
1796 – 1886
Alvan Fisher 1792 – 1863
Samuel Lancaster Gerry 1812 – 1891
Sanford Robinson Gifford 1823 – 1880
Regis Francis Gignoux 1816 – 1882
Eliza Greatorex 1820 – 1897
James McDougal Hart 1828 – 1901
William McDougal Hart 1823 – 1894
Martin Johnson Heade 1819 – 1904
J. Antonio Hekking 1830 – c.1903
George Hetzel 1826 – 1899
James Hope c.1819 – 1892
Richard William Hubbard 1816 – 1888
Daniel Huntington 1816 – 1891
George Inness 1825 – 1894
David Johnson 1827 – 1908
John Frederick Kensett 1816 – 1872
Charles W. Knapp 1823 – 1900
Fitz Hugh Lane 1804 – 1865
Homer Dodge Martin 1836 – 1897
Jervis McEntee 1828 – 1890
Louis Remy Mignot 1831 – 1870

Charles Herbert Moore
Painted scenes of Cedar Grove and rented studio space at Cedar Grove after Cole’s death
1840 – 1930
Thomas Moran 1837 – 1926
John Adams Parker 1827 – c.1905
Arthur Parton 1842 – 1914

Henry Cheever Pratt
Travelled with Cole in Maine New Hampshire
1803 – 1880
William Trost Richards 1833 – 1905
Thomas P. Rossiter 1818 – 1871
Aaron Draper Shattuck 1832 – 1928
George Henry Smillie 1840 – 1921
James D. Smillie 1833 – 1909
William T. R. Smith 1812 – 1896
William Louis Sonntag 1822 – 1899

Benjamin Stone
Rented studio space at Cedar Grove after Cole’s death
1829 – 1906
Paul Weber 1823 – 1916
T. Worthington Whittredge 1820 – 1910
John Williamson 1816 – 1885
Alexander H. Wyant 1836 – 1892
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Further Reading

Baigell, Matthew.Thomas Cole. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1981.

Cole, Thomas.The Correspondence Of Thomas Cole and Daniel Wadsworth:Letters in the Watkinson Library, Trinity College, Hartford and New York State Library, Albany N.Y.Edited by J. Bard McNulty. Hartford, Connecticut: Connecticut Historical Society, 1983.

Cole, Thomas.Thomas Cole’s Poetry:The Collected Poems Of America’s Foremost Painter of the Hudson River School Reflecting His Feelings for Nature and the Romantic Spirit of the Nineteenth Century.Compiled and edited by Marshall B. Tymn. York, Pennsylvania: Liberty Cap Books, 1972.

Cole, Thomas.The Collected Essays and Prose Sketches. Edited By Marshall Tymn. St. Paul, Minnesota: The John Colet Press, 1980.

Flexner, James Thomas.History of American Painting: That Wilder Image, the Native School from Thomas Cole to Winslow Homer.Boston: Little, Brown, 1962; New York: Dover Publications, 1970, 1988.

Foshay, Ella M. and Novak, Barbara.Intimate Friends: Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, and William Cullen Bryant.New York: The New York Historical Society, 2000; North Country Books, 2001.

Kelly, Franklin.Frederic Edwin Church and the National Landscape. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988

Myers, Kenneth.The Catskills: Painters, Writers, and Tourists in the Mountains, 1820-1895.Yonkers, New York: Hudson River Museum of Westchester, 1987, 1988. Distributed by University Press of New England, Hanover.

Myers, Kenneth.“On the Cultural Construction of Landscape Experience: Contact to 1830.” From American Iconology.Edited by David C. Miller. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1993.

Noble, Louis Legrand.The Life and Works of Thomas Cole.Edited by Elliot S. Vesell. Hensonville, New York: Black Dome Press, 1997 (reprint).

Parry, Ellwood C., III.The Art of Thomas Cole: Ambition and Imagination.Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press, 1988.
Powell, Earl A.Thomas Cole.New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1990, 2000.

Robinson, Christine T.Thomas Cole: Drawn to Nature. With essays by John Stilgoe, Ellwood C. Parry III, and Francis F. Dunwell. Albany, New York: Albany Institute of History and Art, 1993.

Schuyler, David.The New Urban Landscape: The Redefinition of City Form in Nineteenth-Century America.Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986, 1988.

Sweeney, J. Gray.“’Endued with Rare Genius:’ Frederic Edwin Church’s To the Memory of Cole.” American Art, Winter 1988. Vol. 2, No. 1.

Toole, Robert M. “‘Quiet Harbor’: Thomas Cole’s Cedar Grove”, The Hudson River Valley Review (Marist, Vol. 27, No. 1, Autumn 2010)

Truettner, William H. and Wallach, Alan (editors). Thomas Cole: Landscape into History. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press; Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1994.

Wallach, Alan. “Thomas Cole and the Aristocracy.” From Reading American Art. Edited by Marianne Dozema, Elizabeth Milroy, and Marianne Doezema. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1998, pp. 79-108.

A selection of books can be purchased through our online Museum Shop.

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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.


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Sunday Salon Lecture Series

Each year during the months of January through April, we offer lectures once per month on Sundays at 2 pm, bringing you engaging speakers who discuss topics related to the Hudson River School. Tickets are $9 or $8 for members, and each talk is followed by a reception. This year, for the first time, the lectures will be held in our brand-new building, the New Studio, which Cole himself designed. To celebrate its rebirth, the 2016 Sunday Salons and the 2016 exhibition will address the topic of Cole as architect. Learn more about the New Studio.

April 10, 2016

Wanda M. Corn
Artists’ Homes and Studios as Archive and Romance

Join nationally renowned art historian Dr. Wanda M. Corn, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor Emerita in Art History at Stanford University, as she explores American artists’ homes and studios that, like the Cole property, have been preserved and opened to the public. She asks what these special places can teach us about the creative process and the history of art. Dr. Corn, chair of the advisory council for the Historic Artists’ Homes & Studios program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is a scholar of late 19th– and early 20th-century American art and photography. Active as a visiting curator and scholar, she has produced numerous books and exhibitions, including The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935.

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For Collectors

Do you own a Hudson River School painting?

If you own a special work of art, you are part of a long tradition of patrons and collectors that have supported artists and derived great pleasure from their masterworks. Here at the Thomas Cole Historic Site, we receive many inquiries from collectors about a wide range of topics that relate to their paintings; therefore, this section of our website is dedicated to the collector. It attempts to answer some of the most frequently-asked questions, and in the future we plan to provide a forum for sharing information among a community of individuals that share common interests.

For the frequently-asked questions section below, our thanks to Louis Salerno at Questroyal Fine Art for providing the expert advice. We invite you to explore the information and links that are listed below, and enjoy your work of art!

1. How can I confirm that my painting is a nineteenth-century original? 

The first thing to do when evaluating your work of art is to make sure it is, in fact, a painting and not a print.  Paintings and prints have become so similar with technology that sometimes a professional cannot immediately tell the difference between the two.  One way to see if you have a painting is to look for brushstrokes and verify that the composition does not consist of pixilated dots, which can indicate that the art is machine-made.  If you believe the painting is on canvas, then you might also check the back to judge the age of the work; a nineteenth-century canvas will typically look dark and quite aged, unless it has been restored.  Even with these tricks, your safest bet is to send an image to a trusted dealer or restorer to provide an initial evaluation of the work.

2011-Collectors-figure1Fig. 1  Prints and paintings can look very similar and it is necessary to look closely.  Here, the work on the right is an original painting, whereas the image on the left is a print.  Both are by Hudson River School artist Albert Bierstadt. Left: Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902), Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie, 1869. Chromolithograph, 19 1/8 x 32 3/8 inches, published by Thomas McLean, London. The Collection of The Old Print Shop, New York, NY. Right: Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902), Indian Encampment.  Oil on paper laid down on board7 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches, signed lower right.  The Collection of Questroyal Fine Art, New York, NY.


Fig. 2 One way to determine if you have a print or painting is by looking at the back.  This example shows what an aged, nineteenth-century canvas and stretcher (the wood support) look like.  Image courtesy of Questroyal Fine Art, New York, NY.


2. How can I determine the artist who created my painting? Is it by Thomas Cole?

First, look for a signature, which can be in the form of initials, one initial, full name, first name, etc.  If you find one and can identify it, then you can assume that the work was painted by the artist. Signatures can be tested for authenticity under a blacklight; if the signature fluoresces, it could be a sign of in-paint, or an addition the original artist did not make.

Many unsigned paintings can be authentic, so if you feel that a painting has the stylistic hallmarks of an artist then you should show it to a gallery. For instance, Thomas Cole did not always sign his works. However, he is known for visible brushwork and sublime features in his landscapes including broken tree branches, rocky outcroppings, and dramatic atmospheres; moreover, his developed skies have dimension and are not flat.  He painted in a naturalistic style, so the pictured scenes tend to look life-like.  These types of hallmarks can be used to determine whether a work of art is by Cole.  You can learn more about artists’ stylistic trademarks by viewing their works in museums, looking in books, or online.

2011-Collectors-figure3Fig. 3 An example of Thomas Cole’s well-developed skies.  Thomas Cole (1801–1848), Lake Mohonk (detail), ca. 1846.  Oil on canvas, 20 1/4 x 30 1/8 inches.  The Collection of Questroyal Fine Art, New York, NY.



Fig. 4 Cole was known for his dramatic portrayals of nature’s darker moments.  Thomas Cole (1801–1848), Imaginary Landscape with Towering Outcrop, ca. 1846–1847.  Oil on canvas, 18 ½ x 15 inches.  Private Collection.

3. I would like to learn more about the artist who made my painting.  What resources can I use?

A good place to start for American artists is Peter Falk’s Who Was Who in American Art?—this book gives a brief overview of thousands of artists. If the artist is well-known, you can also find a lot of information on gallery and museum websites and in scholarly books found at the local library or museum libraries. Going to museums and seeing other examples of the artist’s work can be very helpful, too.

Things get tough if there is not a lot of information available about your artist.  If books and online information are not available, then the best place to look is old newspapers.  These can list exhibitions, ads, and general articles that discuss your artist.  Newspapers from the nineteenth-century can be found on library database systems (such as Proquest Historical Newspapers) or as hardcopies in library or museum archives.

4. Do I need to have my painting authenticated? 

Authentications are important when you have a valuable work of art, but they can be costly.  Sometimes galleries and auction houses can provide unofficial authentications to give you an idea of who may have painted your work—this can help determine whether an official authentication is worth the effort.  It is important to note that museums typically cannot comment on the authenticity of a work due to company policies.

Catalogue raisonné committees also exist for select painters. These committees are comprised of either one or a number of experts who catalogue and authenticate all the known works of a particular artist. Catalogue raisonné groups can charge a fee for authentications, but some are free. You should try to determine whether there is a formal authentication committee for an artist if you believe you have one of their works.  There are currently catalogue raisonné committees for Ralph A. Blakelock, Frederic E. Church, Jasper F. Cropsey, Sanford R. Gifford, John F. Kensett and Thomas Moran to name a few.

5. How can I determine the value of my painting? 

One way to determine the value of your work of art is to consult a gallery or dealer.  You will need to find a gallery that specializes in the type of artwork you believe you have (for instance, you would not want to take a Hudson River School painting to a gallery that specializes in European art).  Dealers are conversant with the market often know the up-to-date value of paintings by certain artists.

If you want to do your own research or verify that a quoted value is fair, you can turn to online sources. and are just two websites that list innumerable auction records for American art.  You can purchase a day or month pass on these websites to access prices paid for works at auction. Browsing the records for a particular artist will give you an idea of what his/her paintings bring.  This is a good way to assess worth, but you must remember that there are determining factors not analyzed in these listings such as size, condition, and desirability of specific subject matter.

For information about appraisals and a list of appraisers, click here.

6. Speaking of subject matterdoes it affect my painting’s value? 

To be concise: yes! Identifiable and common subject matter often make a painting more valueable.  For example: Thomas Cole is revered for being the father of the Hudson River School and the artist who made American landscape painting popular.  For this reason, Cole’s depictions of the American wilderness are oftentimes more desired than his European works.  This directly affects the market value of his paintings—his American paintings are usually more costly than his European works.


Fig. 5 Paintings like Landscape, Sunrise in the Clove tend to be more valuable to Thomas Cole collectors since it shows an American subject.  Thomas Cole (1801–1848), Landscape, Sunrise in the Clove. Oil on canvas, 5 ½ x 8 ½ in. Thomas Cole National Historic Site



7. What makes one painting more valuable than another when it comes to Hudson River School art? 

The importance of the artist is the key factor in the valuation of Hudson River School art. Artists who played a major part in popularizing landscape painting are the most sought after, as are painters with a uniquely individual style, such as Thomas Cole, Frederic E. Church, Asher B. Durand, Albert Bierstadt, Sanford R. Gifford, George Inness, John F. Kensett, Fitz Henry Lane, Martin J. Heade and Thomas Moran. The paintings of these artists are highly sought after by dealers, collectors and museums. The difference in value of two paintings by the same artist often comes down to subject matter, date, size, and condition.

8. Will art galleries be willing to assist me with my painting or should I contact a museum? 

Yes—it is actually best to go to an art gallery first and, if you get a sense that the painting is important and want a second opinion, then go to a museum.  It is more likely that galleries will be able to give you an idea of value as they evaluate the commercial price of paintings on a daily basis.  It is of paramount importance that you find a reputable dealer, though.  If you don’t, you could end up selling a $250,000 painting for $2,500.  My suggestion would be to pick up an art magazine such as Antiques & Fine Art, American Art Review, Art & Antiques, ARTnews, and The Magazine Antiques, look at gallery advertisements and search for information about some of the galleries online.

9. How do I know if I’m getting a fair price when selling through an auction house? What about selling to or through a dealer? 

At auction you receive the value of a painting at one specific moment in time, which is subject to the world economy and who attends the auction.  If two people who want the painting are present, then you’ll get a better price; however, if they aren’t there, you won’t. The advantage is that you are presenting your work to a broad audience and getting exactly what the market thinks of the painting at that moment.  One of the disadvantages is that the successful buyer has to pay the hammer price plus a buyer’s premium, which can be up to an additional 25%.  You are also at a disadvantage if you are the seller—you only receive the hammer price, not the buyer’s premium.  A 6–10% auction house commission is also deducted for selling the work.

If you consign to a dealer, you can set a net price and not be obligated to sell the work if that price isn’t matched or bettered. This way, you have more control over what you will receive in exchange for the painting. The only disadvantages are that you may have to wait a long time before the painting sells and give a commission to the dealer.  If you want to sell to a dealer then you should check their reputation and do your own homework.  You can also ask the dealer what the asking price will be for the painting if you sell it to him/her and decide if you think the profit margin is fair.

10. How can I determine who owned my painting before me?  Is this information important? 

Sometimes the previous ownership of a painting can’t be determined, but sometimes it can. The simplest way to start is to ask the person who sold the work to you for its provenance, or history of ownership. You can also check auction records to see if the painting was ever sold at auction.

Provenance can be an indication of quality and, therefore, increase value.  For example, the value of a work can be enhanced if noted collectors and/or museums previously owned it. This is due to the collectors’ or institutions’ reputation as connoisseurs, which projects a high degree of quality onto the painting.

While it is good to know a work’s provenance, it should be noted that many masterpieces and paintings of great value come with incomplete or limited information.  For this reason, collectors should consider this factor, but not allow the lack of recorded history to dissuade them from acquiring a painting of remarkable visual impact and quality.

11. How can I tell if my painting is in need of restoration? 

This is a hard question because it involves an individual’s own judgment.  Many nineteenth-century paintings can improve with restoration.  If you remove the painting from its frame and the edges under the frame are a different color, then that’s a sign that there is varnish discoloring or dirt.  If you like a painting, then you should show it to a reputable restorer who can do tests to see if it can be cleaned.

One thing to note is that it is not always necessary to restore a work and, in fact, many museums and dealers prefer that a painting not be altered before viewing it.  Also, if you feel it is necessary to obtain an opinion from a restorer, you should seek out the best. One way to determine if a restorer is reputable is to ask who they work with—if their clients include museums and prominent dealers, then this is a good sign.  You may even wish to contact one or more of their clients for a review of the restorer’s working methods. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to ask questions about a restorer’s techniques and why they think it is necessary to clean your painting.  Never forget that you can also always get a second opinion!

Fig. 6 A before and after view of a restored Hudson River School painting.  William Trost Richards (1833–1905), Coastal Scene.  Oil on canvas28 1/8 x 48 1/8 inches, signed and dated (indistinctly) lower left. The Collection of Questroyal Fine Art, New York, NY.

Louis M. Salerno is the owner of Questroyal Fine Art in Manhattan.  Questroyal Fine Art specializes in important nineteenth- and twentieth-century American paintings including works from the Hudson River School, Tonalist, Impressionist, and Modernist movements. Louis has been an avid American art collector and dealer for more than twenty years. The gallery can be reached at 212-744-3586 or via email at

rootFor Collectors

The Windows Are In

This is the view of Thomas Cole’s house from the brand-new window on the north side.

Betsy JacksThe Windows Are In