Art and the River at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art
By RAYMOND J. STEINER
ART TIMES Sept/ Oct 2009
GIVEN THE CHANCE to see this show* a second time – I’d breezed through it when it was still at The New York Historical Society where it was concurrently being shown at the exhibit “Drawn by New York”, an exhibition I reviewed in our November 2008 Issue – I was pleased at this viewing to give it more of my time. I am not able to easily divide my attention when planning to write about an art exhibition, so when both shows came upstate – “Drawn to New York” presently at The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, where it will be on view through November 1 – I took advantage of the opportunity to focus on this important exhibition. Some 45 works – all from the collection of The New York Historical Society – make up the show, all featuring the Hudson Valley/Catskill Region and thus perfect for the 400th Quadricentennial Celebration of the Hudson River and its environs. Although the work of some thirty artists are represented, Asher B. Durand appears to be the ‘star’ of the exhibition – his “Beacon Hills on the Hudson River, Opposite Newburgh – Painted on the Spot” immediately confronting the viewer upon entering the galleries – with seven of his works dominating the walls throughout the several galleries that house the show…and one can hardly fault the happy circumstance since this
Greenwich Village native seemed ever in his element while visiting river and forest and mountain in our region. Indeed, the show in its totality might not have found a more appropriate venue than right here in Ulster County, since many of our local visitors will readily recognize so many of the locations these painters captured on canvas. As Sara J. Pasti notes in her Foreword to the accompanying catalogue, “The paintings remind us that the Hudson River Valley landscape that we live in today looks nearly as pristine as it did two hundred years ago” – when a good many of the paintings, in fact, were painted. Though all who visit the show will find their ‘favorites’, I’d like to point out several that captured my attention for a closer scrutiny: Albert Bierstadt almost always overwhelms the senses, and his “Autumn Woods, Oneida County, New York State” (1886) surely does not disappoint; Jasper Francis Cropsey’s delicate rendition of the little island in the middle distance of “Greenwood Lake, New Jersey” (1871) is a gem, as is the dark, moody feeling of John William Casilear’s “Landscape” (1852); another of Durand’s that demanded my close attention was “Hastings-on-Hudson” (1860) as did William Hart’s “On the Esopus, Meadow Groves” (ca. 1857-8); finally, I suggest you not miss the dramatic sky of Robert Havell’s “View of Hudson River from Tarrytown Heights” (ca. 1842) or Thomas Hiram Hotchkiss’ “Tree Study, Catskill Clove, N.Y.” (1858). Whether weekend day-tripper, historian, nature-lover or landscape painter, this is a show you ought not miss…it will surely fill you with pleasure.
*“Art & the River” (thru Dec 13): Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY at New Paltz, NY (845) 257-3245. A catalogue is available. A concurrent exhibit, “Panorama of the Hudson River” by Greg Miller, is also on view.