America’s first great art movement was born in the Hudson River Valley in the early years of the 19th century. On the trail of the Hudson River School, after you’ve seen the paintings, come see the sites that inspired artists.
The founder of the Hudson River School of Art, Thomas Cole, made his home at Cedar Grove, in the town of Catskill; you can visit his house, with its original painting and period furnishings, as well as his studio.
Just 5 minutes across the Rip Van Winkle Bridge in Hudson, built on a hill with spectacular views and nestled on 250 acres of picturesque grounds, stands Olana, the Persian-style castle and workplace of Cole’s disciple and student, Frederic Edwin Church.
Only a half-hour away, Albany, the capital of New York State, blends majestic historical architecture with an intriguing modern skyline. The Institute of History and Art, one of the nation’s oldest museums, has an extensive collection of Hudson River School paintings, letters and photographs.
Located fifty miles south of Albany in Kingston, the first capital of New York State, the Senate House State Historic Site houses the largest collection of works by John Vanderlyn, recognized today as one of the forefathers of American painting.
In Poughkeepsie, about 25 miles south of Kingston, are two more wonderful stops along this art trail with collections of paintings by Morse, Cole, Church, Gifford and Inness. Locust Grove was the home of Samuel F.B. Morse, a respected artist in the 1820s founder of the National Academy of Design and developer of the electric telegraph and Morse code. The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College houses an extensive collection of Hudson River School paintings.
Head south to Cold Spring for a stroll right down to the banks of the Hudson River. Stop by the Putnam Historical Society and Foundry School Museum and the Butterfield Memorial Library to see paintings by Thomas Rossiter and John Ferguson Weir. www.pchs-fsm.org; (845) 265-4010 and www.butterfieldlibrary.org; (845) 265-3040
Crossing the river, drive to West Point to tour the U.S. Military Academy and the West Point Museum which features the work of Robert Weir, a Hudson River School Artist and the academy’s drawing instructor for 42 years. The views from Fort Putnam and Trophy Point served as inspiration for many paintings. Cruises of the Hudson Highlands are offered from West Point or nearby Newburgh, which is also the site of Washington’s Headquarters, a Hudson River vantage point for Hudson River School artists including Ralph Hoyle.
As you travel south toward New York City, visit Everest, in Hastings-on-Hudson. This home and studio of Jasper Cropsey, one of the most famous artists of the Hudson River School, exemplifies 19th-century life in the Hudson Valley.
This itinerary is compliments of Travel Hudson Valley.