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Friday, June 20, 2014

Our Artist Vacation - Day 2

In order to see everything we wanted to on Day 2 we were on the road by 7:00 a.m.  We drove back into New Hope, PA and crossed the river to Lambertville, NJ.  This saved us from having to pay a bridge toll if we'd crossed at the closer Rt. 202 bridge.  We wanted a quick breakfast so we stopped at this Coffee Bar....

As we headed back north, the sky had clouded up considerably.   By the time we reached Catskill, NY it was raining and quite chilly.  We had hoped to tour the grounds of the Thomas Cole house, but had to settle for just the house tour.  *Thomas Cole mentions this song in an 1843 letter to C.L. Ver Bryck

Thomas Cole, painter/poet/essayist, was considered the father of the Hudson River School style of painting.  You can read more about it here and watch the film on the website about his life and work.  I have long admired the Hudson River School style of painting and wanted to see Cole's home, Cedar Grove.  In 1834 he rented a cottage on the property from the owner and moved into Cedar Grove when he married one his landlord's nieces, Maria, in 1836.  Her uncle and her three sisters continued to live there along with the children Maria would eventually bear.  

Because of the rain I was unable to take a photo of the house, but I found this on the web....

We came up the side steps and walked to the far end of the porch to this view....

This postcard shows the names of the peaks that Thomas Cole could see from his porch....

Back in his day the Catskill Mountain House could be seen from Cole's porch.  It operated until 1941, but unfortunately was eventually razed in 1963.  We visited the site in 1999 on one of our vacations in the Catskill Mountains.  It had been perched practically on the edge of the mountain overlooking the Hudson River--breathtaking!  

Shall we go in....

Cole would hang his coat and hat in the entry hall upon his return from walking the surrounding landscape where he would make sketches for his paintings....

This was before tubes of paint.  Artists could mix small amounts and put them in bladders, plus it was a cumbersome task to carry about all the equipment necessary to paint plein air.  Instead Cole would sketch the scene and make notes about the colors.  He felt that if he spent 20 minutes looking intently on an object he could paint it with more truth than if he'd painted it on the spot.  Cole believed the artist should be true to nature, but also be allowed poetic license.  He wrote....

If the imagination is shackled, and nothing is described but what we see, seldom will anything truly great be produced either in Painting or Poetry.

Cole would erase any sign of industry or tourism from his finished scene.  He painted the scene as he wished it to be, just as I did in taking the photograph of the mountains above.  In reality there are house rooftops just below the area I framed in my viewfinder.  Cole was already disturbed by the encroaching civilization.  He would have been pleased to know that in 1885 the Catskill Forest Preserve was established and contained a "forever wild" clause.  Today you can follow the trails to each of the sites depicted in the paintings by the River Hudson School artists.

The first floor of the house were the "public" formal rooms.  This window looks out at the Catskill Mountains....

The family would receive their guests here....

"Prometheus Bound"

The second floor contained the family's private living area.  This window overlooks the front lawn....

I can imagine Cole sitting at this desk looking out at the Catskill Mountains (hopefully sans rooftops)....

He played several musical instruments.  His flute and oboe are in the glass case.  The tall instrument standing on the floor is an aeolian harp....

He also played the guitar and on one of his trips to the British Isles brought home a new song to play for Maria....

"Mount Chocorua, New Hampshire"

The Catskill Mountain House....

One of the few plein air paintings he was said to have done....
"Mountain Sunrise"

The bedrooms were on the second floor as well.  Cole's trunk at the foot of the bed has his signature on the lid.  He no doubt used this on his travels....

The sketch on the dressing table is of their son, Theodore....

Their daughter, Emily, painted the sunflower that stands on their nightstand....

Cole made this graphite drawing of Maria....

Thomas Cole had his studio in the nearby storehouse for many years....

On the easel is a reproduction from his series of paintings called Voyage of Life....

The museum is breaking ground this summer on rebuilding the art studio that replaced the one above in 1846.  Cole did not get to use it for very long because he died five days after his 47th birthday in 1848 from a lung infection.  "The Life and Works of Thomas Cole" by Rev. Louis L. Noble was published in 1856 and can be found here and downloaded as an ebook.  If you enter the page number 378 in the search box you will be taken to the last letter he wrote before his death in which he speaks eloquently about the mental and moral habits of the artist.  Throughout the book are letters to Maria while on his travels.  He very much loved and missed her and his children.  When he died she was two months pregnant with their 5th child.  Their 4th had died in infancy the year before.

This is how Cedar Grove looked in 1868 as painted by Charles Herbert Moore....

O Cedar Grove! Whene’er I think to part
From thine all peaceful shades my aching heart
Is like to his who leaves some blessed shore
A weeping exile ne’er to see it more--
--Thomas Cole

After a thorough browsing of the gift shop we headed back to the car in the rain with my two book purchases-- "Thomas Cole's Creative Process" and "The Hudson River School Art Trail Guide."  We found a diner along the main street for a quick bite before heading to Vermont....

Whenever I see fried flounder on the menu I never have to dither over what to have....

Remember the cats on and under our car?  Well, they've seemed to have followed us.  There were CATS all over CATSKILL....

This one was prepared for the weather!

I was starting to draw smiles from passersby as the rain poured in my opened car window as I took photos of all the cats, so we headed north to Albany then took a right turn and drove through the Green Mountains on our way to Rockingham, VT to the Vermont Country Store....

I remarked to Ken, "Wasn't it raining the last time we drove through the Green Mountains in 2006?"  See the rack of clothes on the porch?  I found two dresses and a skirt marked down to $9.77 each!  Maybe that was a Scottish black cat under our car and the prosperity was the savings from not having to pay the bridge toll and the huge savings on the clothing.  We stayed as long as we dared because we needed to get on down the road to our Bed & Breakfast.  I'll save that for Day 3....another ghost story to tell you!


  1. I'm enjoying your tour. I used to live near a town called Cedar Grove in NJ. And also (off your main subject) my grandfather used to walk across that bridge between New Hope and Lamberville to go to work when he was a new bridegroom and very young carpenter--age 19 I think. Amazing they have to strap each and every chair to keep off the tourists!!

    1. That's really interesting that your grandfather walked across that bridge. Did they live in New Hope or the vicinity, I presume? Where did he work and what year was that?

  2. Lovely tour of the Catskill area--Cedar Grove has been witness to many changes over the years..Oh that we could keep open spaces from being gobbled up in wasteful construction. I will enjoy visiting your links about Thomas Cole. We were in New England during the same time attending our grandson's graduation from high school. Rain, rain and more rain fell on his outdoor graduation! Looking forward to part three. Thanks for all your great info in such detail, Cathy. ♥

    1. That's exactly how I've described the weather while we were there--rain, rain, and more rain! I've really enjoyed doing the research for this post because it filled in some of the blanks in Thomas Cole's life. The tour guide was very good, but I was busy taking photos and trying to take it all in that I needed this exercise of writing about it to bring it all together. So thank you for reading it and enjoying learning more about his life. I feel I know him a little better after reading several of his letters in that book by Rev. Noble. If there are such things as ghosts I feel I've connected with his through his writings and paintings!

  3. I love this! This is one of the blogs that makes me happy I've returned to Bloggle~land {my name for Blogging on Google} I love this! Did I mention that already? I love tours of historical houses, and unlike many in the UK you were allowed to take photographs! I love that you showed us the views looking out the windows too, lovely touch and gives insight to inspiration. Looking forward to Googling Thomas Cole, thank you for the introduction! I am right there with you and that plate of flounder! It looks *so* good {hungry now} and right up there with the best of British Fish'n'Chips! Waving from Acros the Pond in Wales, Debs :)

    1. Well! I don't know what to say! Thank you for your hearty endorsement! ☺ As for views out windows, that's one of the first things I look for when I go somewhere. I will be more intentional now to document views since I know you love them so much! ☺ We were the only people on this tour so I felt a little conspicuous and rushed to take my photos. I got the feeling sometimes our tour guide was a little annoyed with all my picture taking because I was lingering too long when she was ready to move on. I did not share all of my photos because some weren't quite in focus or to my liking because I didn't have the time to "frame" it properly. I love, though, that most places will allow me to take photos as long as I don't use flash. My camera is very good in low light so I'm grateful for that. I think Susan Branch takes the best photos! She has a camera a step or two above mine in that it has interchangeable lenses. My one lens has to do everything. You'll see the difference next week when I post my photos of Gladys Taber's house.

  4. Cathy, yet another interesting and informative post which will draw me back for further perusal. I'm so grateful for your sharing, and looking forward to these 'armchair journeys' with you ... especially eager to see Stillmeadow through your eyes!

    1. My next post will be equally interesting, if you liked this one. I can't wait to do days 4 and 5!

  5. You should have been a teacher, Cathy. Have I already told you that? Seems like I have. Your posts, no matter what the topic is, are always chockful of information and interesting things. Hey, what am I saying? You should be a teacher... You ARE a teacher, in every sense of the word. I have to echo what Deborah said above - your blog just makes me happy! Can't wait to see what's next. Take care and talk to you soon. PS: Are you actually on the road now, or are you writing this after your trip?

    1. Thank you again for your faith in my teaching ability, Janet. ♡ I don't think I could have handled a rowdy classroom, though. So as long as you all don't get too rowdy, I can continue sharing things with you that I've learned! ☺

      No, we are home since last Sunday afternoon. There is no way I could do what Susan Branch did on her England trip! I need my own computer (not a laptop) and hours to compose, research, and edit what you've seen in these last two posts. I'm enjoying it immensely because it's like I'm on a two-week vacation instead of just one week....and I get to be with my furbabies, eat my own food, and sleep in my own bed! I've started working on Day 4. It should be ready by Monday. I'm so glad to know my Blog makes you HAPPY☺!

    2. We promise to be good - LOL. There are all kinds of teachers. Some have to contend with kindergartners and potty issues. Some of us have sedate and well-behaved "mature" students. Even college students were once "tailored and conservative" - I once had a neighbor friend who went to Harvard in the early 40s [Pearl Harbor very rudely interrupted his education] and he told me the boys had to wear suits and ties to class [even meals] then. Can you even imagine that now? Culture shock.

    3. I personally think we could stand to have a little more decorum. I was thinking last night how people use to dress up for dinner in the upper classes. The reason I was thinking that was because I was at the table on our porch eating pizza with curlers in my hair and taking guilty pleasure in not having to bother with being presentable--it was just my husband, mind you. I wouldn't be caught dead in curlers in front of others (except for that time I forgot I had a curler in bangs and went to the grocery store that way).

  6. Cathy, thanks for sharing your wonderful journey with us! I really love documenting special places through windows, too. On our last trip to Germany, I took so many photos through windows with old, bubbled glass. The older the better! It was fascinating to visit Thomas Cole's home with you. Can't wait to visit Stillmeadow with you, too! Wasn't it an amazing feeling to meet Susan? I met her twice, last Fall, as she passed through Chicagoland. I will always treasure those days, with all my heart! ♡

    1. Thank you for visiting Dawn! I'm glad you enjoyed my little tour. Yes, it was amazing to meet Susan, finally, and Stillmeadow is another great old house to tour. As you saw, it was much smaller than one would have imagined. It was hard to get good photos because of all the people in the way! I will have to direct people to Susan's Blog to get the best photos of Stillmeadow, but will share what I have. That will be Day 5, so stay tuned.

  7. Dear Cathy,
    I am enjoying the arm chair journey. I almost missed this, you somehow ended up in the junk folder! I may just start checking for a new post instead of waiting for an email.
    I am not familiar with Thomas Cole, but love a good road trip and I'm having a wonderful time.
    The cats made me smile. In San Angelo, Texas we have painted life size sheep everywhere. They are in the parks and in front of businesses. They are really so beautiful, I should take pictures of them.
    Looking forward to the next installment!

    Chris W

    1. I'm so glad you're enjoying your arm chair journey! Sheep all painted up sounds lovely. My town is famous for Francis Scott Key so we've had keys painted and displayed around town--pretty, but not as interesting.

  8. Okay, Cathy ... Day 2 toured in depth! Gorgeous, gorgeous countryside. I watched the Thomas Cole film, and read page 378 as you suggested. Sad that he only reached age 47, lost an infant, and never met his fifth child. And those cute Cats of the Catskills even have their own FB page; I've seen some of the cows in Kansas City, horses in Lexington, KY, and pelicans in Pensacola, FL. The closest I've come to the Vermont Country Store is to subscribe to their catalog; sounds like you found quite the bargain. And now I'm ready to delve into Day 3 ... catch you later!

    1. I wonder if someone's done a book of all the different painted objects cities have.


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