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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Catskill Mountains

Last week we made our way up to Vermont so Ken could take baking classes at King Arthur Flour.  We've stopped in the Catskill region of New York through the years when going up to New England.  Last year we visited the painter Thomas Cole's house in Catskill, NY.  I did a post about it here.  It was there that we discovered Frederic Church's house was nearby, but unfortunately we had a tight schedule to keep and could not see it then.  So this year we planned a visit and found the Bavarian Manor Inn not too far away.  Whenever possible we choose old Inns like this one, started in 1865.  They often are in need of some renovating (especially the bathrooms) but that does not bother me when I can get loads of charm. . . .

Our room was the second-floor corner room in front--the window at the top right in the first photo.  The last photo is taken from the balcony above the side porch. . . .

Our room had a fishing theme. . . .

Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed that evening, but we were able to enjoy the quaint dining room the next morning.  We requested an early breakfast so we had the dining room to ourselves.  The room was a museum of sorts filled with Bavarian crockery and cuckoo clocks.  The painted panels were on the screen door to the side porch. . . .
Follow this link for a little bit of history about the Inn.

After breakfast we were off to Olana, the home of the best known American Hudson River School painter, Frederic Church (1826-1900).  He was a generation younger than Thomas Cole and a student of Cole's.  Church came from a wealthy family which allowed him the freedom to pursue his love of painting at a young age.  He also traveled extensively throughout South America and the Middle East which are subjects of many of his 202 paintings.  It also influenced the design of his home.  Click on the photos to enlarge them. . . .

I took this photo for the quote ☺︎. . . .

Church was born in Hartford, Connecticut and came to the Catskills as Thomas Cole's student when he was just 18.  On one of his treks into the countryside to paint he discovered the view from the east side of the Hudson River to be spectacular and determined to one day build his house there. . . .

Olana was completed in 1872 on his 250-acre estate.  He had 5 miles of carriage drives made on his property just so he could enjoy the ride through the park he'd created.  It wound its way up to the house.  In 1884 he wrote:

“I have made about 1-3/4 miles of road this season, opening entirely new and beautiful views. I can make more and better landscapes in this way than by tampering with canvas and paint in the studio.”

Before I begin my tour, I hope you will watch this aerial video of the estate so you get the feel of its placement on the site.  It also captures the grandeur of the house's size and design.

We walked the last part to get the feel of the "reveal" a visitor would experience. . . .

The design of the house is a combination of several different middle eastern architectural styles. . . .

We were not allowed to take photographs inside the house.  There are a few here, however.  Each room was painted to reflect the middle-east as did the furniture.  The views from the two sides facing the mountains were breathtaking.  These were taken from the porch looking west. . . .

The bridge across the Hudson, of course, would not have been there in Church's day. . . .

This view is toward the south over the lake he had dredged from a swampy area.  You get a glimpse of the carriage drive winding its way up to the house. . . .

He painted the above view. . . .
Bee Craft Mountain from Church's Farm

This was taken from behind the house looking west. . . .

Church traveled to South America in 1853 and 1857.  Upon his return he painted "Heart of the Andes".  A 5' x 10' painting, he unveiled it in a dramatic way to the public in 1859. . . .
The painting's frame had drawn curtains fitted to it, creating the illusion of a view out a window. The audience sat on benches to view the piece and Church strategically darkened the room, but spotlighted the landscape painting. Church also brought plants from a past trip to South America to heighten the viewers' experience. The public were charged admission and provided with opera glasses to examine the painting's details.  
Use the above link for more information on Frederick Church and his work.  
More info here.

Heart of the Andes, 1859
Click on caption for more information.
He eventually sold it for $10,000--the highest price received for a painting by a living American at that time.

This is one of my favorites of his paintings. . . .
Autumn in North America  c. 1856
The Google Art Project has 99 of his paintings.  What is unique about this site is you can use their close-up feature to see the brush strokes.  I highly recommend it for viewing his Niagara Falls paintings.  Photographs of paintings never truly capture the intensity and "life" in a painting, but these close-ups are the next best thing.

If you want to hike the areas in which the Hudson River School artists painted this site will show you where the trails are located.  

I was disappointed that the tour was more about the house than the man and his family.  They normally show the second floor, but we were told they were not doing that this summer.  Yet, I was glad to see the views first hand and get a glimpse of the life that Frederic Church lived.  By the time he died in 1900 landscape painting had lost its appeal in the art world.  I suppose photography and the ability to travel easier and further had much to do with that.  I am glad that we have remnants of a different way of "seeing" the beauty of our world--through the lens of the eye of the beholder--the gifted artists who were drawn to capture what they felt so that the rest of us could experience it too.

.•*¨`*•. ☆ .•*¨`*•
Take Joy!


  1. You do stay at some beautiful period inns, don't you? I did as you suggested and watched the video clip first. It is an imposing building of its kind, with a presence in the landscape, but a strange and {for me} somewhat discordant combination of styles. I find the elements work, but maybe not together? It is the sort of building that makes me want to take a scissors to fabric and recreate it in a quilt!
    Looking forward to hearing {and seeing?} more about the King Arthur's Flour baking lessons! ~~~Deb

    1. I've asked Ken to write something up. He took lots of photos.

  2. Cathy, I must say I'm in love with Church's "Heart of the Andes"--The story intrigued me that such a large painting drew such crowds that paid a quarter a piece to view it! Even traveling to Great Britain--interesting for the time. Thank you for taking me to Olana. What a large estate and very interesting architecture. My favorite is the beautiful view! ♥

    1. I loved that he made the 5-mile carriage drive just so he could ride around his property and enjoy the views.

  3. You took us on a wonderful tour, what a great place to visit with so much to look at. I need to scroll back and take another look.

    1. I'm happy to hear this coming from a Brit. Your country is one "wow" after another.

  4. I haven't thought about the beautiful Catskills (where we have lived) in a long time … this is an interesting post, beautiful paintings and the place you stayed looks delightful. And yes, looking forward to hearing about the baking classes. Did you join in or do something else during that time?

    1. I did my own thing while Ken was in the classes for the two days. You'll be hearing about my adventures either here or on Take Joy Society in the next few weeks. ☺︎

  5. Greetings Cathy. I really enjoyed this little glimpse into American history and one of our painters. It sounds like you had a great time in such a beautiful area. Wishing you a great day, Pat xx

    1. We did have a great time. Wishing you a great day, too, Pat.

  6. What lovely photos, I do love to see green lands.
    Your hotel looks beautiful.
    Fondly Michelle

    1. We wished it could have been a few weeks later when the leaves will be changing color.

  7. I love how educational your vacations are, Cathy. Did you always plan them with this in mind? Even when the boys were little? Of course, I've only been reading your blog for about 2 or so years, but every time you & Ken travel, you do these tremendous postings about where you went, what attractions you visited [wish there was a better word than attractions] - and where you stayed. Tons of information and details. I always spend AT LEAST 2-3 hours pouring over your posts, bouncing myself off to links you've included, googling people or places in which your post has piqued my interest. Even ones that at first I thought, Oh I'm not sure I'll be all that passionate about X - it always ends up that I am!! I bet if you could earn college credit in something with your posts if you had the same amount of writing and photos for all your other travels as you have for the traveling you've done since beginning your blog. NO KIDDING. Art history! There's one possibility - you could get CLEP credit for an intro art history class, or a writing class maybe. I know I'm always saying it, but it's always true. So educational. Since there's no such thing as a former teacher [or an ex-Marine] I guess I'll always feel that way. But you put so much into your posts, it would be very satisfying to see you earn something with them! Oh well, if you're home now, get some really good rest for yourself. I know I always need a few vacation days to recover from my vacation. Take care and talk to you soon. 💛

    1. Dear Janet, your comments always make me smile. ☺︎ Before I started web journaling I kept scrapbooks of our vacations which always included the brochures and other information I found interesting. We always plan our vacations around artist and writer homes/museums or gardens--but I'm always interested in the people who created the gardens. I don't like just going to a museum--only when I have a particular person in mind will I go inside a museum. It's always the people I'm interested in. I want to see where they lived and created. I'm home, but I have company coming tomorrow for a few days and again next week! So my other posts will have to wait.


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