Object of the Month
In this series, the Museum presents original research and insights on a new object each month, selected from the Museum’s robust permanent collection.
From the Domestic Rituals Series, 1979–83
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the Artist, 1984 (84.22)
Fascinated with the role of documentary images in modern culture, Frey began the Domestic Rituals series after getting her MFA at the Yale University School of Art in 1979. As she described, “the pictures, which have a quasi-documentary look about them, resemble a kind of tableau-vivant.” During her four-year project, she won the first of two photography fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1984, she exhibited the series at the Hudson River Museum. In The New York Times, William Zimmer described how, through Frey’s lens, “we are always brought back to earth by a specific, though universal, incident.”Read more
Derrick Adams (American, b.1970)
Orbiting Us #18
Mixed-media collage on paper
Museum Purchase, 2018 (2018.07)
Drawing from such divergent sources as Star Trek and Sun Ra’s Afrofuturist science fiction film Space is the Place (1974), Adams deploys modern associations with space travel while also incorporating ancient motifs and imagery. Orbiting Us #18, with its silver mat frame, can be read as a spaceship window offering us a view of the galaxy. In front of the planet Jupiter, the crowned head of the Egyptian King Amen-em-hat III floats in space with a space suit and NASA technician facing it. The modern scene, captioned “Top Sergeant Julie Barrows prepares a pressure suit for presidential inspection,” was culled from a 1960s article about the space race in Ebony Magazine. With this pairing, the artist collapses ancient mythical and modern American conceptions of space within the portal window of an imaginary vessel.
Harold Knickerbocker Faye (American, 1910–1980)
Intaglio on Rives paper
Gift of Helen S. Faye, 1990 (90.10.8)
Moonlight strikes an industrial scene, where gravel or sand covers the ground. The artist, Harold Knickerbocker Faye, was born to a wealthy family—his father was vice president of Western Pacific Railway—but spent his short yet dynamic career depicting the other side of the tracks. While many artists of the period romanticized poverty, Faye turned a Realist eye towards New York City during the Depression, seeking formal beauty in otherwise bleak, depopulated scenes.
Dora Wheeler Keith (American, 1856–1940)
Publisher: Louis Prang & Co. (Boston, Massachusetts)
Christmas Card: Shout with Joy
Chromolithograph, silk fringe
Collection of the Hudson River Museum (INV.10397)
Trained under the prominent artist and instructor William Merritt Chase, Dora Wheeler was a painter and tapestry designer for the decorative firm American Artists, founded in 1883 by her mother. In 1893, she executed a large series of murals for the ceiling of the Library of the Woman’s Building for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Along with Mary Cassatt, who also painted murals for the Chicago fair, this commission was a pioneering achievement for a female artist in the 19th century, an era where social boundaries largely determined the type of artwork created by women.
Jacob Lawrence (American, 1917–2000)
Silkscreen; edition 51 of 60
Museum Purchase (2018.05)
One of the leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance, Lawrence was exceptional in his ability to forge a successful art career during the early years of the civil rights movement. His art concerned the genesis, exodus, and eventual apotheosis of the Black subject, and this late print bears traces of this long output. His best known work, The Migration Series, represented the movement of African Americans from the rural South to the industrial North.
Elihu Vedder (American, 1836–1923)
Stella Funestra (The Evil Star)
Pastel and charcoal on paper
Gift of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (55.24c)
Elihu Vedder’s Stella Funesta (The Evil Star) captures the somber ambivalence of the Gilded Age. By the last decade of the 19th century, America enjoyed unprecedented material comfort, rapidly growing cities, and an expanded border westward. This prosperous and modernizing culture was also haunted by the ghosts of the recent past. The rift left by the Civil War, the Plains Indian Wars, economic and social upheaval, and a crisis of faith in the age of Darwin contributed to a mood of nostalgic melancholy in this period, called The American Renaissance.
Jasper Francis Cropsey (American, 1823–1900)
Greenwood Lake, New Jersey
Watercolor on paper
Anonymous Gift, 2017 (2017.07)
Jasper Francis Cropsey was a surprisingly versatile artist. One of the foremost painters in the Hudson River School of landscape painters, he was also an architect. Born in Rossville, Staten Island, Cropsey received his early artistic training as an architect’s apprentice, where he learned oil and watercolor techniques for architectural drafting. In 1843, the young artist exhibited for the first time at the National Academy of Design with a painting titled Landscape Composition. This early training and recognition led to a long and varied career as a painter, peaking in the 1850s.
Robert Motherwell (American, 1915–1991)
Summertime in Italy (with Lines)
Gift of Arthur Zankel, 1991 (91.3.1)
Robert Motherwell’s lithograph Summertime in Italy (with Lines), 1966, fuses exterior observation and interior reflection central to his artmaking. As a founding member of The New York School, or the Abstract Expressionists, Motherwell was interested in the subconscious associations with abstract shapes, but also in their formal qualities.
Kimbel and Cabus (1862–1882)
Ebonized hardwood, tiles, glass, brass hardware
Gift of Mrs. Joseph Lippman, 1973 (73.39)
The New York-based firm of Kimbel & Cabus led the way in Modern Gothic furniture design through the second half of the 19th century. Formed in 1862 by German-born cabinet maker Anthony Kimbel (ca. 1821–1895) and French-born cabinet maker Joseph Cabus (1824–1894), the firm represented the positive synergy between immigrant craftsmen, many of whom arrived around 1848, and the daring tastes of post-Civil War northeastern industrialists and financiers. The enthusiastic market rewarded their experimentation in tastefully eclectic objects like this cabinet.
Louise Nevelson (American, b. Ukraine, 1899–1988)
Gift of John I. H. Baur, 1985 (85.16.1)
Louise Nevelson, born Leah Berliawsky in present-day Ukraine, moved to Maine with her family as a child. As a young adult, she moved to New York City in 1920 to pursue her childhood passion of studying art at the Art Students League. Nevelson lacked the money for fine art materials throughout the 1940s and 1950s, and used wood out of necessity. During a period of urban redevelopment in mid-20th century, her practice of reusing architectural salvage was fostered by the demolition of many row houses and tenement buildings in New York City. At first, Nevelson found wood scraps on the street. By the 1960s, she often purchased secondhand furniture, and by the 70s she had wooden objects made to her specifications. The evolving sources of Nevelson’s materials illustrate her ascent as one of the leading sculptors in America.
Samuel Colman (American, 1832–1920)
Moonlight in Venice
Ink and wash on board
Gift of the Estate of H. Armour Smith, 1961 (61.13.55)
Born in Portland, Maine in 1832, Samuel Colman moved to New York at an early age, growing up in a literary and artistic environment fueled by his father’s business as a book dealer. His uncle sold art supplies, and it was likely through his family that Colman met Asher B. Durand, under whom he studied painting. At age 22, Colman was elected as an associate member of the National Academy of Design and was firmly established as one of the foremost second-generation Hudson River School painters.
Robert Indiana (American, born 1928)
Demuth American Dream, No. 5
Gift of Mr. Andrew Lanyi, 1981 (81.11.6 A-E)
Robert Indiana, who is best known for the LOVE insignia, has always had an interest in combining visual art and the written word. In 1980, the artist issued a print series based on his painting, Demuth American Dream, No. 5 (1963), an homage to Charles Demuth’s painting, I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold (1928), as well as William Carlos Williams’s earlier poem, The Great Figure. This tribute, repeating Demuth’s visual language with slight variations, devotes each panel to a different word: EAT, HUG, DIE, and ERR.
Artist and Designer: Winslow Homer (American, 1836—1910)
Engraver: John Filmer (American, active 1863—1882)
The Fishing Party
October 2, 1869
Supplement to Appleton’s Journal of Literature, Science, and Art
Gift of Dr. Howard Simon, 2002 (2002.11.03)
Considered one of the foremost painters of 19th-century America, Winslow Homer did not benefit from formal academic training early in his career. Instead, his professional experience as an artist was rooted in freelance illustration work for periodicals such as Harper’s Weekly, Century Magazine, and Appleton’s Journal of Literature, Science, and Art, from which this 1869 image comes. An avid angler, Homer made the depiction of fishing a lifelong artistic pursuit. From his earliest days as an illustrator in the popular press, to his watercolors of fisherwomen along the northern coast of England, to his late oil paintings of the sea, Homer kept his eye trained on fishing themes.
Joseph Cornell (American, 1903?1972)
Untitled (Hôtel de l’Etoil)
Mixed media collage construction
Gift of the C & B Foundation, 1975 (75.22.2)
Joseph Cornell was born in Nyack, NY, and lived most of his life with his family in a small, wood-framed house on Utopia Parkway in Queens. In the early 1950s, Cornell began a series of works that explored the associations of grand hotels in Europe, a subject that proved quite potent for Cornell, who never owned a passport. Cornell’s practice of showcasing delicate vignettes in small, neat spaces that were suggestive, not explanatory, was influential to numerous future artists and filmmakers, from Robert Rauschenberg to Wes Anderson.
National Chicle Company
Commercial color lithograph on paper
Collection of the Hudson River Museum
Between 1933 and 1934, the National Chicle Company produced the Sky Birds card collection. In a format previously reserved for baseball players, heroes of aviation took center stage, with their daring exploits listed on the back of each card. Distributed in one-cent packs (roughly 18 cents in today’s currency), a total of 144 different cards were produced. The first two dozen cards featured World War I pilots, many of whom were members of the Lafayette Escadrille, a notoriously reckless volunteer brigade of American pilots in support of the French. The National Chicle Sky Birds set was a uniquely dramatic and entertaining way to illustrate the recent history of aviation.