Among the Hudson River School painters who followed in the footsteps of Thomas Cole, those who concentrated their art on the depiction of the play of sunlight on landscapes and waterscapes came to be known as the Luminists. And among the Luminists, Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880) was one of the most gifted. Although he grew up right across the river in Hudson and was directly influenced by Cole, very few of Gifford’s paintings – including those of iconic viewsheds in the Catskills – ended up in art collections within the immediate region. So it’s a rare treat indeed when an exhibition is brought together for display hereabouts.
Dr. Kevin J. Avery, who co-curated the major retrospective “Hudson River School Visions: The Landscapes of Sanford R. Gifford” for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art in 2003, has gathered about 20 paintings, on loan from the Yale University Art Gallery, Harvard University Art Museums, Portland Museum of Art, Albany Institute of History and Art and several private collections, for display in the “New Studio” gallery at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill. Gifford traveled and made sketches for his paintings in Europe, New England, New Jersey, the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest; some of his most famous works depict scenes in Italy. But the paintings in the new exhibition all are set in the Catskills, including views of Kaaterskill Clove and Falls, High Peak and Round Top, as well as Hunter Mountain and the Hudson Valley prospect. It’s the first time that a significant number Gifford’s paintings of the region will be on view just a few miles from the sites that inspired them, and art-lovers will be able to visit six of the viewpoints on the Hudson River School Art Trail (www.hudsonriverschool.org).
“Sanford R. Gifford in the Catskills” opens to the public this Sunday, April 30 and be on view through October 29. With free admission between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., the opening event will also unveil the Parlors, a new immersive installation that combines technology with the meticulous historic restoration of the first-floor parlors in Cole’s 1815 Main House. At 2 p.m., Dr. Avery will give a lecture on Sanford Gifford and the new exhibition at Temple Israel, adjacent to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. Admission to the talk is $12 general, $10 for members.
Regular entry hours begin on Tuesday, May 2, with the exhibition open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is located at 218 Spring Street in Catskill. For more info, call (518) 943-7465 or visit www.thomascole.org.