Things to do in Catskill, N.Y.: See world famous painter’s works

For the first time, one of the things to do in Catskill, N.Y. includes seeing the works of a world famous American landscape painter, Sanford R. Gifford.

Thomas Cole House New Studio

Thomas Cole’s New Studio, reconstructed from 1846 original.

Beginning next week, you can visit Thomas Cole House to view a selection of pieces by the 19th century landscape painter.

The exhibit kicks off Catskill, N.Y.’s active tourism season which increasingly includes must-see art in the area.

In this instance, rarely viewed paintings have been loaned from major institutions and private collections, including those of Gifford’s descendants.

See the gallery below for some of Gifford’s paintings.

The Gifford exhibit

Visitors to Sanford R. Gifford in the Catskills will have access to 20 works depicting the Hudson Valley, including nearby vistas.

Each painting in the exhibit depicts a local view in Greene, Columbia or Ulster counties.

Six of these views can be visited on foot or by car along the Hudson River School Art Trail.

Kevin J. Avery, a senior research scholar at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the author of a book about Gifford, curated the show.

Avery brings together Gifford’s paintings that focus on the Catskills, including the mountains and valleys near Catskill.

Richly represented are Gifford’s enchanting, seductive – sometimes even stark – interpretations of Kaaterskill Clove and Kaaterskill Falls, High Peak and Round Top, as well as Hunter Mountain.

This is the first time an exhibit of this magnitude has been held so close to Gifford’s childhood home in Hudson, N.Y. – directly across the river from Catskill, N.Y.

The paintings and a fully illustrated catalogue have been made available by institutions including:

  1. Yale University Art Gallery
  2. Harvard University Art Museums
  3. Portland Museum of Art
  4. Albany Institute of History and Art

The Hudson River School

Gifford is one of the most celebrated painters of America’s first arts movement, the Hudson River School.

He credited its founding painter, Thomas Cole, with stimulating his interest in landscape painting.

Together, the painters captured views of the Hudson Valley around the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Betsy Jacks, Executive Director of Thomas Cole National Historic Site, describes Cole’s work as having an element of advocacy.

“What was happening to the landscape at the arrival of the Industrial Revolution was very dramatic,” she says, describing the expansion of the railroad and clearcutting by tanneries.

“Thomas Cole was sounding the alarm and raising questions…

“He was the first of a big movement – now known as the Hudson River School – that launched currents in American culture, such as the idea that American landscapes are national treasures.

“They still matter greatly to us today.

“Gifford captured the area’s beauty in absolute perfection. His works make you appreciate the views so much more.”

Visitor information

On your list of things to do in Catskill, N.Y., this exhibit is a must.

Sanford R. Gifford in the Catskills opens to the public on Sun., April 30 and runs through Sun., Oct. 29.

It takes place the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, within the gallery space of Cole’s 1846 ‘New Studio’: 218 Spring St.

On opening day at 2 p.m., curator Kevin J. Avery will deliver a lecture at the nearby Temple Israel: 220 Spring St.

Other things to do in Catskill, N.Y.

The opening of the Gifford exhibit coincides with Thomas Cole House’s opening of a new installation.

Visitors can experience Cole’s 1815 Main House as it was originally.

The historic restoration reveals the earliest-known interior decorative painting by an American painter.

Projections will also animate one of the parlours, bringing to life some elements of Cole’s original space.