Fenimore Art Museum is located in a monumental Neo-Georgian (also known as Neo-Colonial) mansion built in the 1930s on the shores of the Otsego Lake in Cooperstown. It was built on the site of James Fenimore Cooper’s 19th century farmhouse. The town itself was founded by Cooper’s father, Judge William Cooper. Cooper is best known for the Leatherstocking series, which includes novels such as The Pioneers (1823) and The Last of the Mohicans (1826).
Fenimore Art Museum, operated by the New York State Historical Association, hosts permanent American fine and folk art collections, and includes works by Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, and other American artists. The building and some of its most important collections were donated by Stephen C. Clark, a collector and benefactor, who also founded the Baseball Hall of Fame.
On May 23 this year I spoke with curator Christine Rossi, and talked about two temporary exhibitions on view at Fenimore Art Museum this summer: The Perfection of Harmony: The Art of James Abbott McNeill Whistler (on view through October 2) and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in Bohemian Paris (on view through September 5). Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in Bohemian Paris is from the collection of Herakleidon Museum in Athens, Greece, and includes an array of sketches, drawings, books, albums, and original posters made by Toulouse-Lautrec in the late 1800s. The exhibition also includes costumes from The Metropolitan Opera in New York City, used in various productions of La Bohème, a story representative of La Belle Époque
Click link below to listen to my conversation with Christine Rossi:
Stephen M. Silverman, author of The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America, published by Knopf in 2015, spoke at the Erpf Center in Arkville, Saturday, April 2 in front of an audience of about forty animated Catskills fans. Co-written with Raphael D. Silver, who passed away in 2013, the book covers all the turning points that shaped the region and made it into a popular attraction. The Catskills have been known as America’s First Wilderness, First Vacation Land, and also the place where American Art was born. The event, organized in partnership with the Woodchuck Lodge Foundation, also celebrated John Burroughs’ 179th birthday: the beloved naturalist was born on April 3, 1837 in Roxbury, Delaware County. Also Washington Irving, who helped popularized the Catskills, was born on April 3, 1783.
Silverman spoke about the history of the region going back to Henry Hudson’s discovery in 1609. He talked about the Hardenbergh Patent, signed on April 20, 1708, and how that changed the region. And then he talked about the naissance of an authentic American art movement, which took place in the Catskills in the early 1800s, and manifested both in literature and visual arts.
Washington Irving, who wrote from an urban perspective (he was born in Manhattan, but spent quite a bit of time in Tarrytown), and James Fenimore Cooper, who wrote from a rural perspective (growing up on the shores of the Otsego Lake in Cooperstown), both helped shape a narrative that was genuinely American, a narrative that dealt with American realities, American customs, and American social mores.
Likewise, Thomas Cole, who was born in England, but moved to America with his family when he was a teenager, started the first authentic American art movement after visiting the Catskills in the 1820s. Catskill Mountain House, the first major hotel, opened in 1824 when hotels were rare even in New York City. That was a game changer for the area: visitors would come by steamboats on the Hudson River, and then take a local stagecoach from the town of Catskill to the Catskill Mountain House. The expansion of the railroad system supported a growing tourism industry: the Catskills became the model for what was to become the typical American resort town.
Grossinger’s Hotel opened in 1919, thus marking the beginning of a Golden Age for tourism in the Catskills. That ended in the 1970s for several reasons: the expansion of air conditioning, cheap flights, and suburban lifestyle – all these factors changed not just how people lived but also how they chose to vacation.
Silverman spoke about the region’s potential to keep re-inventing itself. He then talked about the Woodstock Music Festival which took place in 1969, and what the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has to offer today. He mentioned places like The Roxbury Motel, which have become international destinations in and of themselves, and new businesses, retreat centers, so forth and so on.
I asked Silverman what surprised him most when he sat down to research and write this book. What surprised him most was the extent of gang criminal activity in the Catskills throughout the 1920s and the 1930s.
This weekend many museums and art galleries in the Catskills are switching to their winter hours, so be sure to check them out. But art is here to stay. And, despite cool temperatures this weekend, there is plenty to do for art lovers in the Catskills.
Friday, October 31 we celebrate Halloween or “All Hallows” tradition originating in the ancient Celtic festival of the dead. November 1 was the beginning of a new year in the Celtic Festival. Later on, Christians began celebrating the Feast of All Saints on November 1. And, All Saints Day continued the Celtic tradition of celebrating the dead; what is more, pretty much all the customs associated with Halloween today can be traced back to the Celts: treat or trick, wearing costumes, and carving vegetables are some of those cherished traditions.
Woodstock Playhouse – Halloween Ghoulish Entertainment
Many Halloween parties this weekend in the Catskills: Woodstock Playhouse presents Halloween Ghoulish Entertainment Friday, October 31 at 6 pm. In existence since 1938, the Woodstock Playhouse is a rural extension of Broadway. This Friday at 6 pm the Playhouse celebrates All Hallows tradition with treats, and other venerated customs. For more information, go to http://woodstockplayhouse.org/.
Night at the Museum at the Fenimore Art Museum
Saturday, November 1 Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown presents a Night at the Museum event for all ages, including a tour of the collections, as well as craft activities, storytelling, and live music. Fenimore Art Museum is located in a monumental neo-Georgian mansion built in the 1930s on the shores of the Otsego Lake in Cooperstown. It was built on the site of James Fenimore Cooper’s 19th century farmhouse. The town itself was founded by Cooper’s father, Judge William Cooper. Cooper is best known for his novel The Last of the Mohicans published in 1826. For more information, go to http://www.fenimoreartmuseum.org.
Renaissance Prints and Drawings at Vassar College
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie presents Imperial Augsburg: Renaissance Prints and Drawings, 1475-1540, the first U.S. exhibition to explore the German city’s artistic and cultural achievements in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The exhibit, organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, includes close to one hundred items, focusing on prints, drawings, and illustrated books. The exhibition also includes some medals and one etched set of armor. Most of the works presented are from the National Gallery’s own collection, and loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Library of Congress, Washington; and private collectors Andrea Woodner and Andrew Robison. The exhibit will be on view at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College through December 14, 2014. For more information, go to http://fllac.vassar.edu/about/news/announcements/2014-2015/140919-augsburg.html#sthash.aA2gcvoS.dpuf
“Master, Mentor, Master” at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site
Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, Greene County is closing its exhibit “Master, Mentor, Master: Thomas Cole & Frederic Church,” exploring the relationship between Cole and Church this Sunday, November 2. The exhibit includes 20 works by Cole and Church, displayed side by side – three paintings by Cole, and 17 works by Church, including drawings, studies, and finished paintings. Church worked closely with Cole between 1846 and 1848. The exhibit “Master, Mentor, Master: Thomas Cole & Frederic Church,” which received raved reviews from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, includes works completed by Church between 1844 and 1850. The show was curated by John Wilmerding, former Deputy Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and professor emeritus of American Art at Princeton University, assisted by Kate Menconeri, curator at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. Kate Menconeri was a guest on “Accent on Monday” radio program on WIOX this past Monday, October 27. For more information about “Master, Mentor, Master: Thomas Cole & Frederic Church,” go to http://www.thomascole.org/.
Magic Surrealism at Bright Hill Literary Center
Bright Hill Literary Center in Treadwell is having an opening reception this Sunday, November 2 from 3 to 5 pm Magic Surrealism Paintings, featuring artist Terry Fox. From Bright Hill Press: “Terry Fox is a self-taught artist born in New Jersey, who moved to Upstate New York in 1973, and has also resided in San Francisco and Vermont. His interest in art started at an early age and has progressed and evolved over the years from early black and white line drawings through to large oil and acrylic expressionistic works on canvas. He has shown his work and received many awards at such venues as the Cooperstown Art Association, CANO, Oneonta; Roxbury Arts Group; Noir Show, Charles Bremer Studio, Otego; Smith Pioneer Gallery, Cooperstown; Viviana Hansen Galleries in Delhi and Franklin; the Treadwell Museum of Fine Arts; The Gallery in Stamford; and during 12 seasons of the Stagecoach Run Art Festival in Treadwell and 10 exhibits at the Autumn Café in Oneonta, NY. His paintings are in many collections, both nationally and abroad. The British critic Ben Watson called his work: “magical surrealism in the post-realist playpen.” Fox’s exhibit at Bright Hill is the last of the Word & Image Gallery 2014 season.” For more information, go to http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Bright-Hill-s-Word—Image-Gallery-Opens–Magic-Surrealism-Paintings–by-Oneonta-Artist-Terry-Fox-Sunday–November-2–3–5-pm.html?soid=1102771140741&aid=lAUJS2HlTJM.