This summer in New England we have had brutal heat, extreme winds, and monsoon rains. Making plans in advance has been a real challenge. One’s only option has been the Russian roulette thing … put your finger on a date, make plans, and hope for the best. Sometimes it was possible to make a Plan B, but in extreme cases one simply called it a snow-day and rescheduled.

This past Thursday was the exception to the rule of Plan B. It was the most perfect of summer days, with cloudless blue skies, low humidity, and a light breeze to keep the mosquitoes at bay. A day to treasure and make memories. A day to enjoy doing almost anything. And, as it happens, a day that I had made plans with friends to visit Frederick Church’s house on the Hudson. Talk about lucky break … I should have bought a lottery ticket.

Olana is an amazing house for many reasons, not the least of which is that all the interior furnishings, and all of the original stenciling and detailing have been preserved for almost 150 years. But even more amazing is the sheer majesty of the landscape that Church created around the house. The site with its magnificent sweep of the Hudson below, is profoundly moving. In fact, he created the landscape that he wanted to see. It is a landscape much like those that he painted … filled with drama and extremes of light and shade. That he treated the landscape as an intrinsic part of his house is a bit mind-boggling. Every window frames a picture that might have been one he painted. And having seen the view from inside … framed by his picture-frame windows … one is sensitized to the views that are revealed as one walks through the grounds.

While I am not a huge fan of the Hudson River School of painters, Olana makes a strong argument for their aesthetic. The grandeur of the American landscape has mostly been obscured and lost to us. Olana draws one back into a time where man’s imprint had yet to be felt. It is a place where the landscape reveals its real power over imagination. One is aware of how massive the land really is. How intimidating it must have been for those that discovered it, those that explored it, and those who unveiled it for others to see.


3 Replies to “Olana”

  1. Another wonderfully worded newsletter, dear Connie. I am a fan of the Hudson River School of painters and it is a long, long time since I last saw Olana. Your newletter reminded me of my few years living on the Hudson, and particularly in the most beautiful of the many houses my father restored – Greek Revival – such elegant airiness, Cardinals darting across an unruly lawn between gorgeous scented trees, and that view from the Venetian window of the bedroom, down river. Wonder what has happened to the place. You may remember visiting? Newburgh was very lovely in the old town but a strange, troubled place and which sucked all good fortune and joy from our family. A story in that which I’ve had budding in my head and long ago few penned notes of an outline. If I have any happy memories, they are really from that beautiful, elegant home, its atmosphere suspended in an era long gone. Is the fine sculpture park still there, somewhere, on the Hudson?
    Keep writing, dear artist. Again, might you mind me sharing all or some of this recent newsletter on my feckybok page?
    With my affection and warmest, high regards,

    PS If it wasn’t so darned far and so expensive, I would utterly relish an exhibition of your paintings here in the gallery of Tin Jug Studio! Perhaps you could explore painting many mini ones, to make a wall-filling montage which would fill a suitcase, easily carried.

    1. Would love to have you share on your page. Regarding the sculpture park, Storm King is still there drawing in new generations of art lovers.

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