Albany Institute of History and Art: Hudson River School & Erastus Dow Palmer

Hi everyone! I am blessed to live in a culturally rich part of the country. The Dutch settled New York City north to Albany in the early 1600’s; several Presidents and other important political figures arose from this area, and a key school of painters–the Hudson River School–developed in the region during the mid-1800s. The Albany Institute of History and Art, which owns a significant Hudson River School collection, recently had a free admission day, so I took advantage and drove into the Albany for a visit.

 Hudson River School Painters

Albany Institute of History and ArtThe School was not a “school” per se, but rather a group of like-minded, 19th century painters who looked to Thomas Cole, the artist who painted Ruined Tower (above), as their guide.

An Adirondack Pastoral, G. Inness at Albany Institute of History and ArtThey are known for reflecting the pastoral nature of the American landscape in an idealized fashion, as in An Adirondack Pastoral (above) by George Inness. Most Hudson River School paintings depict the Hudson River Valley, the Catskills, the Adirondacks, and the White Mountains. Cole’s home, Cedar Grove, is a National Historic Site in the town of Catskill (NY) about an hour south of Albany.

Dawn of the Morning, Lake George CropseyWhile painted in a realistic style, Hudson River School paintings frequently romanticize the American landscape, as seen in Dawning of the Morning, Lake George (1868) by Jasper Francis Cropsey. They felt romantic notions similar to the Romantic and Transcendental writers of the early 1800s.

Twighlight, Frederick Church at albany instituteFrederic Church studied under Thomas Cole and is perhaps second only to Cole in fame as a Hudson River School painter. The National Gallery did a retrospective of his works in 1990 that I had a chance to see and it was spectacular. Church gifted this painting (above), Twighlight (Sunset) to Erastus Dow Palmer, an Albany sculptor (see below). Church’s Moorish-style home, Olana, is a State Historic Site about an hour and a half south of Albany.

Albany Rural Cemetery J. Hart at Albany Institute of History and ArtHere we have Albany Rural Cemetery, (1849) by James Hart, who, along with his brother William, made up part of the second generation of the School. The Institute explains that “Hart’s painting would have appealed to the romantic fascination for melancholy and sentimental subject matter” of the time. You may remember a post I recently wrote about the cemetery.
Close up of Scene in the Helderbergs, W. HartThis close-up of a painting by William Hart, Scene in the Heldebergs, Near Albany, is one of my favorites. I love the pastoral setting and the idealized country life.

Erastus Dow Palmer

The Institute also owns a large collection of works by Albany sculptor, Erastus Dow Palmer, a nationally recognized 19th century artist.

Plaster model of the Angel of the Sepulcher by Erastus PalmerYou may recognize this handsome angel from my post about Albany Rural Cemetery. This piece is the plaster model for the larger piece in the cemetery, called, Angel of the Sepulcher. The exhibit noted that it is rare to find an angel depicted as male.

Angel of the Seplechre, Erastus Palmer, Albany Rural CemeteryHere you can see the angel sitting in the midst of the cemetery.

Infant Flora, 1857, Erastus Palmer

This marble sculpture, Infant Flora (1857), was hand-carved by Palmer himself. He and his apprentices carved their own pieces, rather than sending them to Italy for carving, as was the custom. He is said to have breathed “life into the neoclassical sculptural tradition.”

Infant Flora, Erastus Dow PalmerI think she’s lovely.

Albany Institute of History and Art
125 Washington Avenue, Albany  12210
$10 adults, $6 kids 6-12

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  1. Beautiful art … you are so blessed to be close enough to visit these wonderful places. Thanks for the tour and sharing your knowledge with us. The painting by William Hart, Scene in the Heldebergs, Near Albany, is my favorite too.

  2. Diana the art is incredible! You just don't see beauty like that any more. Thanx for sharing, Jo

  3. The art is gorgeous. I especially love the cemetery! We all need to take advantage of seeing things like this. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

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