The Olana Partnership is pleased to announce the second annual exhibition in the Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery at Olana State Historic Site, entitled Fern Hunting among These Picturesque Mountains: Frederic Edwin Church in Jamaica. The exhibition will open to the public on Sunday, June 6 and remains on view through October 31.
Frederic Church, an avid traveler with a special passion for the tropics, journeyed to Jamaica in 1865. This was unlike his previous expeditions, as he and his wife, Isabel, were escaping from intense personal grief -- the loss of their two young children. Jamaica provided distraction for both Frederic, who “accomplished a great amount of work,” and Isabel, who was “fascinated with the occupation of fern collecting,” and they encouraged friends to join them in “fern hunting among these picturesque Mountains.”
The trip served Church extremely well in that it afforded him time and activity to heal his emotional wounds. His time in Jamaica yielded a remarkably large body of preparatory materials—oil sketches, ink, and pencil drawings. From these, Church created major studio oils; 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). The material from the Jamaica excursion continued throughout his career to inform his many works on tropical subjects.
The importance of the trip is reflected in the number of studies Church chose to mount, frame, and display at Olana. One of his major Jamaican canvases, The After Glow, 1867, which was originally sold to his parents, later became a major attraction for visitors to his home. The exhibit, co-curated by Evelyn D. Trebilcock and Valerie A. Balint, comprises the best of the related sketches and paintings from Jamaica in the Olana collection.
Within Frederic Church’s oeuvre, his Jamaica sketches are particularly lovely – studies of sunsets, mountains and foliage. 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.” This exhibit will help explain Church’s working process by exhibiting together Sunset Jamaica and the resulting studio work, The After Glow. It will include five works never before exhibited and reveal Church’s interesting use of his photography collection both as an aid-mémoire and as substrate for sketching.
“As the second annual exhibition in the Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery, Fern Hunting reflects Olana’s continued commitment to increasing Church scholarship and giving the public access to the collection,” remarked Sara Johns Griffen, president of The Olana Partnership. The works from this period in Olana’s collection and the many associations and connections to the artist, his family and the creation of Olana, make this exhibition truly unique and exciting.”
Coinciding with the exhibition, The Olana Partnership will restore Isabel Church’s fern bed, which was located just west of the entry to the house. The fern project, part of The Partnership’s overall plan to restore the 250-acre landscape to Frederic Church’s original design, is based on historic photographs from Olana’s collection, which includes one from 1870 of the artist’s son Louis walking in the area.
The exhibition is made possible by support from David B. and Mimi G. Forer, Mr. and Mrs. Brock Ganeles, David G. Kabiller, Stephen and Bindy Kaye, Paul Leach and Susan Winokur Henry and Sharon Martin, The Lois H. and Charles A. Miller Jr. Foundation, Chas A. Miller III, The New York State Council on the Arts Museum Program, Mount Merino Manor, The Olana Exhibition Fund, The Reed Foundation, The Terra Foundation for American Art, Richard T. Sharp, and The Jack Warner Fund for Creativity and Innovation.
A full-color, hardcover catalogue with essays by Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser, Chief Curator and Krieble Curator of American Painting and Sculpture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and Katherine E. Manthorne, Professor of Art History, Graduate Center, City University of New York with a foreword by Anthony Johnson, Ambassador to the United States from Jamaica has been co-published by Cornell University Press. It is available at Olana’s museum store or on line at www.olana.org.
Olana is the 250-acre picturesque landscape and Persian-inspired home designed by American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900). Olana’s collection includes artwork, photography, textiles, decorative arts, period furnishings and equipment, archival materials and historic structures. Interpreted in the period of 1890-1900, the site is visited by approximately 170,000 people each year.
Olana State Historic Site is located at 5720 Route 9G in Hudson, NY. The grounds are open every day from 8 am until sunset, guided house tours (reservations recommended) are available Tuesday through Sunday and holiday Mondays, April through October, 10AM-5PM; the last tour starts promptly at 4PM. The Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery is open Thursday through Sunday and holiday Mondays from 11 am to 4 pm. Telephone: (518) 828-0135. Please check the website www.olana.org to confirm hours