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Hudson River School Art Trail, New York

Walk in the footsteps of the painters who created the first great American art movement.

From Cedar Grove, The Thomas Cole National Historic Site

Map of New York

The Hudson River School Art Trail is a three-mile historic theme trail is part of a larger network comprised of seven sites linking the home of Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School, with painting sites that inspired the work of many artists in the nineteenth century. Thomas Cole's home is now a National Historic Landmark and today provides an orientation for your exploration of the Hudson River School Art Trail.

Photo of historic house
The home and workplace of Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School of art, in Catskill, NY

The Development of the Trail The Art Trail is currently in the initial stages of its development, which includes the creation of a brochure and web site with maps, driving and walking directions, and printed representations of the painted views to use as a comparison with today's actual views.

The Art Trail will include wayside interpretive signs including reproductions of paintings depicting that site as well as background information on the painting, the artist, and how the scene has been preserved. These wayside interpretive signs will serve as "captions on the landscape," enhancing the visitor's understanding about the Hudson River landscape and the art that it inspired.

The artist Thomas Cole made his first trip up the Hudson River to Catskill in 1825. The resulting paintings created a sensation in the nascent New York art world and launched the Hudson River School of art. These influential first paintings included a rendition of Kaaterskill Falls as well as South Lake, both of which are included in this Trail.

Painting of lake
Frederic Church, Scene on Catskill Creek, 1847

As one example of the sites along the trail, the painting at left was painted by Frederic Church at Trail Site 3 on the Catskill Creek Just a few miles from his home, this scene inspired Thomas Cole so much, he painted it more than any other. "The painter of American scenery has indeed privileges superior to any other; all nature here is new to Art." -- Thomas Cole, Journal entry, 1835

A New Art Movement... for a New Nation

In the early years of the 19th century, the fledgling American nation was seeking a cultural identity apart from Europe and a style of art that it could call its own. A group of artists found the answer in the beauty and majesty of the natural world they encountered in the Hudson River Valley and created magnificent landscape paintings. This movement, the first in American art, became known as the Hudson River School.

painting of a thunderstorm over the mountains

Photo of lake
The view from Sunset Rock today, one mile north of the North Lake Beach on the Escarpment Trail in Catskill Park.

 

 

The Hudson River School painters believed art to be an agent of moral and spiritual transformation. In large-scale canvases of dramatic vistas with atmospheric lighting, they sought to capture a sense of the divine, envisioning the pristine American landscape as a new Garden of Eden.

The Hudson River School Art Trail pays homage to both the creative and the historical significance of the Hudson River School painters. Their work created not only an American art genre, but also a deeper appreciation for the nation's natural wonders, laying the groundwork for the environmental conservation movement and National Park System.

The Hudson River School Art Trail enables you to walk in the footsteps of Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, Asher B. Durand, Jasper Cropsey, Sanford Gifford and other pioneering American landscape artists, and appreciate their work in an entirely new way. Most of the stops on the trail are within 15 miles of Cedar Grove, The Thomas Cole National Historic Site. Located in Catskill, New York, this was the home and studio of Thomas Cole, acknowledged founder of the movement. Wear comfortable shoes, open your eyes, and prepare to be inspired

Follow the Hudson River School Art Trail to the places that stimulated a distinctly American artistic identity. Seeing the sites on the Hudson River School Art Trail will be a memorable and rewarding experience, but be prepared to give it some time as the trail stops are located over a fairly wide area. Some of the stops are easy to get to by car, while others can be reached only on foot and range from an easy walk to a fairly strenuous hike. The Trail Map and Directions will help you to plan your visits to the sites you want to see.

Painting of lake
Thomas Cole, Lake with Dead Trees (Catskill), 1825 (click painting to enlarge)

Cedar Grove - Thomas Cole National Historic Site

The Main House and Studio are open by guided tours, which are offered Thursday through Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm, from early May through late October. The grounds are open free of cost, and a small fee is charged for the tour. For detailed information about hours, admission and group tours, log on to www.thomascole.org.

Olana State Historic Site

Tours of the house are offered daily (except Mondays), 10 am to 5 pm, April through November, and on weekends and by appointment from December through March. Reservations to tour the house are highly recommended. There is a small fee per car on weekends and holidays, and a year-round fee for the guided house tour. For more information, log on to www.olana.org or call 518-828-0135.

North-South Lake Area

Your hike may require the purchase of a day-use fee at the New York State DEC's North-South Lake Campground, which is open from early May through late October. For information during the camping season, call the campground office at 518-589-5058, or call the DEC Regional Office year-round at 518-357-2234.

The Hudson River School Art Trail is a project of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, presented in partnership with Olana, the home and workplace of Frederic Church, and with the National Park Service Rivers & Trails program, with assistance from the Greene County Tourism Promotion Department. The Trail project is funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, with special thanks to Congressman John Sweeney for his support.

For more information:

The Hudson River School Art Trail is a project of Cedar Grove, The Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Spring Street, Catskill, New York 12414
Phone (518) 943-7465
www.thomascole.org

The National Recreation Trails Program
American Trails, P.O. Box 491797, Redding, CA 96049-1797 (530) 547-2060 Fax: (530) 547-2035 nrt@americantrails.org www.AmericanTrails.org

 

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Photo of boardwalk in swamp
Audubon Center at the Francis Beidler Forest (photo: Mark Musselman)

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