Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), known as a leading figure in the Hudson River School of landscape painting, had a passion for the tropics. In 1865, Church and his wife, Isabel, journeyed to Jamaica for a respite after losing their two young children to diphtheria. Immersing himself in the exploration and documentation of the tropical island, Church created a wide variety of flora and fauna studies as well as a large body of preparatory sketches used later for grand landscapes.
Church wrote of Jamaica, “The scenery is superb – grand Caribbean Sea to Blue Mountain peak which is about 8180 feet in height…I have accomplished a great amount of work – but there is so much to do that I am at a loss to decide day by day- what to paint.”
On his return, Church created a few major studio oils including: Rainy Season in the Tropics (The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco); The Vale of St. Thomas, Jamaica, 1867 (The Wadsworth Atheneum) and The After Glow, 1867 (Olana Collection). His Jamaican material continued to inform Church's later paintings of the tropics.
"The After Glow," and a number of his Jamaican studies, were incorporated into the interiors of the Churches' Persian-style home, Olana, in Hudson, New York.
The Olana Partnership, which maintains the Church home and studio as a historic site, is now presenting the best of his Jamaican paintings and rarely-seen sketches in the exhibition "Fern Hunting among These Picturesque Mountains: Frederic Edwin Church in Jamaica," opening June 6. A free public lecture will be held at 2PM.
In conjunction with the exhibit's opening day, the Churches' bedroom and dressing room, newly restored to their original grandeur, will be open to public viewing for the first time.
Experts meticulously recreated a very ornate pattern of leafy plants and flower-filled urns, interlaced with a gold ribbon, for the bedroom wallpaper. The restored dressing room features a striking Japanese paper called momigami paired with an Aesthetic movement border of stylized sunflowers.
A short distance from Olana is the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Cedar Grove, in Catskill, New York. On view now through October 31 is “Remember the Ladies: Women Artists of the Hudson River School”, the first known exhibition ever to focus solely on women artists associated with the 19th century landscape painting movement.