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.
This studio is the where Thomas Cole created many of his major works. The building was restored in 2004 and is now furnished with his original easels and other art-making equipment and tools.
Do you know that I have got into a new painting Room[?] Mr. Thomson has lately erected a sort of Storehouse and has let me have part of it for a temporary painting room; it answers pretty well, is somewhat larger than my old one and being removed from the noise and bustle of the house is really Charming – what shall I be able to produce in it heaven knows – the walls are unplastered brick with the beams and timbers seen on every hand – not a bad colour this pale brick and mortar. I am engaged upon my great Series.
Thomas Cole to Asher B. Durand, December 18, 1839. NYSL, Cole Papers, Box 1, Folder 4
When/By Whom it was Built:
Begun in early 1839, and overseen by John Alexander Thomson and Thomas Cole. Information about the team of people who built the structure is not currently known.
By Whom it was Designed:
Thomas Cole and John Alexander Thomson. Click here for the 2022 exhibition catalog, in which scholar Annette Blaugrund discusses a letter revealing Thomas’s role in designing the building.
The Other Half of the Building: Storehouse
During Thomas’s residency here, the property consisted of 110 acres of farm fields and orchards. The east half of this building was the storehouse, a crucial part of the farm operation. It was likely in this building that harvested and saleable crops (hay, oats, corn, barley) were stored. Today, this east half of the building is the Site’s Visitor Center and Gift Shop.
Enter Thomas Cole:
Immediately after his marriage in 1836, Thomas Cole worked in the Main House itself. But in 1839, he was able to move to this building, a larger and more private space. He considered this new building to be “a temporary arrangement,” for he hoped to build a new house with a studio inside. The house was never realized, and instead he painted here for seven years. Thomas painted many of his most important works here, including the Voyage of Life for his patron Samuel Ward, as the ceiling was high enough to accommodate large canvasses. A fireplace permitted Thomas to work in any season, and he added a large skylight-like window to admit northern light, the preferred light for painting. Thomas welcomed visits from his family to the studio: as he worked, Maria, who married Thomas, read to him and offered advice, and the Cole children often visited. The Old Studio also afforded space for grinding pigments into paint, constructing stretchers, stretching canvasses, and fitting pictures into frames. Painting at this time involved a lot of hard physical labor—active, smelly, and frequently messy.
Painted Here: “My Great Series”
Among other works, Thomas pained The Voyage of Life series in this space. Click here for more about the series.
About Contemporary Artwork On Site:
This property has long been an inspiration for artists. In addition to Thomas Cole, family members Sarah Cole (1805-57) and Emily Cole (1843-1913) were both practicing artists; and many others visited here to see the place where Thomas lived and worked. We seek to continue this tradition of living artists actively working in and being inspired by this site, by working with artists through OPEN HOUSE: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole. This annual series of curated contemporary artist installations is located within, and in response to, the historic home and studios of artist Thomas Cole. Operating from the concept that all art is contemporary, the program activates conversations between artists across centuries. Exhibitions and artworks have ranged from those that literally reference Thomas’s iconic works to those that expand on issues and themes relevant to Thomas, including art, landscape, history, and balancing the built and natural worlds. OPEN HOUSE projects shed light on the connections between nineteenth-century American art and our contemporary moment. Click here to see the current or upcoming exhibition in the series.
How to Explore:
In the warmer months, the Site has regular open hours, and you can purchase a ticket to explore the historic interiors. In the colder months, the Old Studio (and Main House) are open for private tours by appointment. Click here to find out more. Also, check out 360 Explore, a virtual walkthrough of the historic interiors.
I am still a Youth in imagination + build Castles still.
Thomas Cole to Asher B. Durand about the “Voyage of Life” series, March 8, 1842, New York State Library, Thomas Cole Papers, Box 1, Folder 5
Image: Charles Herbert Moore, Old Studio, c. 1860s. Oil on canvas, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.
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.
Preview for Supporters Coming Up
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.
Thomas Cole’s New Studio
This studio is where Thomas Cole painted for the last fourteen months of his life. He designed the structure in 1846. The building was demolished in 1973, and reconstructed in 2015.
I am now sitting in my New Studio which is about completed though the walls are not quite dry. I have promised myself much enjoyment in it and great success in the prosecution of my Art, but I ought ever to bear in mind that ‘the day cometh when no man can work.’
Thomas Cole, Thoughts & Occurrences entry, December 25, 1846
When/By Whom it was Built:
Built in 1846 under the direction of Thomas Cole. Information about the team of people who built the structure is not currently known. The 2.2-acre plot on which this was built was the only land on the property that Thomas owned, having purchased it from his uncle-in-law, John A. Thomson.
By Whom it was Designed:
Thomas Cole designed the structure, and his architectural drawings still survive. Click here for the 2022 exhibition catalog in which scholar William L. Coleman discusses Thomas’s design, process, and goals for this structure.
Other Buildings Designed by Thomas Cole:
- Saint Luke’s Church, Catskill (demolished 2001). It stood at the current site of the County Building on Church and Water Streets
- Contributed designs for the Ohio State Capitol building. While he was not the official architect, the designs he submitted in a contest ended up being heavily used.
For more about Thomas’s architectural pursuits, check out the 2016 exhibition catalog, Thomas Cole: Artist as Architect.
Designs for this building changed over time from an Italianate villa (or in Thomas’s words, “a sort of Italian looking thing”) to what became a studio. For the latest scholarly research about this building, see the exhibition catalogs Thomas Cole: Artist as Architect and Thomas Cole’s Studio: Memory and Inspiration.
The original building was torn down in 1973 after falling into disrepair. After many years of research the building was reconstructed in 2015. For a behind-the-scenes look into at the process, click here. Also check out this publication.
- Contractor: Dimensions North, Richard Rappleyea, located in Catskill, NY
- Fire Suppression System uses water mist
- Archaeology was done to find the original footprint of the building
- Landscape was designed by Robert Toole
- Architectural drawing by John Mesick of Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects
- Materials: Cedar shake roof, clapboard siding, interior maple floors, acrylic storm windows
The interior of the New Studio features a state-of-the-art exhibition space for displaying changing exhibitions, and its open floor plan provides a flexible space for lectures and educational programing. The building enables the Thomas Cole National Historic Site to effectively serve as a catalyst for the burgeoning national and international interest in 19th century American landscape painting, an outstanding destination for visitors to and residents of the Hudson Valley, and a resource and inspiration for future generations of scholars, collectors and artists.
An Inspiration For Generations:
Maria aimed to honor her departed husband’s artistic legacy. She kept the New Studio as Thomas left it for many years, allowed other artists to visit, and rented his studio to other artists. Maria helped to spread his legacy by helping others to experience his work and this place. For decades little changed at the property, which was maintained consistently by the family into the twentieth century, as one reporter in 1871 described it, “like a shrine.” After Cole’s passing, artists Frederic Church, Jasper Cropsey, and Charles Herbert Moore sketched Cedar Grove, including glimpses of the “new studio,” the only such images that survive before photographs from the turn of the century. After his visit, Cropsey wrote this moving description of the space:
After breakfast we were invited to the studio. It is a new building about 1000 yards from the house, large and commodious, with a neat little porch and a wide open hall before entering the painting department. It is built in the modern florid style. We Entered; it seemed as if Mr. Cole would be in in a few minutes for every thing remains as when he last left painting. The picture he last painted on yet stands on the Easel, The brushes he painted with that last day are there; his paint table looks as when he was there – There too is the sketches upon the floor, and standing by the Easel as he left them – There are his books, his writing table, portfolios, and in short I felt like asking, “when will Mr. C be in,” Though the man has departed, yet he has left a spell behind him that is not broken, as you may sit there upon the sofa, and look upon his works, we will feel more than ever the devotion, genius and spirit of the man. Every thing breaths so much candor of will, truth of purpose, and love of the refined and beautiful, that we feel a kind of reverence there, we instinctively feel like taking off our hats, when we enter although He is not there.
Jasper Cropsey to Maria Cropsey, July 7, 1850, Newington Cropsey Foundation
The artwork that Thomas Cole left behind in his studio when he died suddenly at the age of 47 in 1848 shaped the course of American art. The exhibition, Thomas Cole’s Studio: Memory and Inspiration, reassembled many of those significant works, and explored how Thomas’s example so powerfully affected the evolution of art in America.
This studio was also used by Emily Cole (1843-1913), daughter of Maria and Thomas. Emily was a professional artist known for her botanicals and hand-painted china. 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. Emily lived here her whole life and made a living selling her art. Emily was the focus of the 2019 exhibition, The Art of Emily Cole.
Art Made Here:
Check out the exhibition catalog, Thomas Cole’s Studio: Memory and Inspiration for research regarding what Thomas created in this space, and what was left here at the time of his sudden death in 1848.
How to Explore:
In the warmer months, the Site has regular open hours, and you can purchase a ticket to explore the special exhibition inside the New Studio (and historic interiors). In the colder months, we host our annual lecture series. Check our schedule here.
[…] my earnest desire is to see [Art] presented in such a form that none shall be deprived of its pleasures and benefits. That Art shall be exposed, free as air, to every citizen, high or low, rich or poor.
Thomas Cole, Lecture on Art, c. 1845
The New Studio Hits The New York Times
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:
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.
Barge board of solid mahogany
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
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
We brought in a crane this week and lifted the trusses into place. The building is taking on its final shape in this video: