Great Estates: Frederic Church’s Olana in Hudson, New York

Editorial Staff Art

Our upcoming June issue features a number of exhibitions and events that mark the 100th anniversary of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration (and the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson voyage up the eponymous river). Among them is a new exhibition at Olana, the estate of landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church, Glories of the Hudson: Frederic Edwin Church’s Views from Olana, which was organized by Evelyn Trebilcock and Valerie Balint. The exhibition, on view through October 12, is the first to be installed in the Evelyn & Maurice Sharp Gallery, a new exhibition space on the second floor of the main house.

Drawn primarily from Olana’s collection, the exhibition includes some works that have never been publicly exhibited before—highlighting the much-needed accessibility created by the new gallery (formerly a guest bedroom), which, along with the second floor landing, were recently restored and rehabilitated. A hard cover catalogue (available for purchase here) accompanies the exhibition and includes an essay by the curators, an introduction by Kenneth John Meyers, curator of American art at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and a foreword by John K. Howat, former chairman of the department of American art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as a Church scholar and biographer.

Born in 1826 in Hartford, Connecticut, Church studied for two years with Thomas Cole before moving to New York in 1849 to begin his career. Within a year he became the youngest artist ever to be elected to the National Academy of Design. His monumental and evocative paintings captured specific regions—Twilight in the Wilderness, Heart of the Andes, the Icebergs, and his most popular Niagara—and were immensely popular in the mid-19th century. Church traveled widely throughout his career to New England, South America, Europe, the Arctic, and the Middle East, which inspired not only his epic landscapes, but also the house that he designed for himself and his family in upstate New York.

In 1869, working with the architect Calbert Vaux, Church created a Persian fantasy house, which, along with the vast gardens and grounds, is a transcendent backdrop for the eclecticism that characterized his taste during the late 19th century. Among the works of art on view at Olana are several of Church’s own paintings, and works by contemporaneous painters Martin Johnson Heade and Arthur Parton, and sculptor Erastus Dow Palmer. Also on view are numerous pieces of furniture, art, and objects that Church collected on his many travels, including: Middle Eastern carpets, metalwork, ceramics and costumes; old master paintings; Mexican and colonial folk art; pre-Columbian art; and 19th century American and Oriental furniture.

The slideshow above offers a taste of the otherworldly beauty and charm of Olana, and now, with more to see than ever, should entice readers to plan to visit soon.

Olana State Historic Site is located off Route 9G in Hudson, New York. During the April through October season, the house is open to the public by guided tour, Tuesday through Sunday (and Monday holidays) from 10 am to 5 pm, and the gallery is open Thursday through Sunday (and Monday holidays), from 11 am to 4 pm. For admissions and other information visit