Sylvia Sleigh: Invitation to a Voyage

June 16–October 15, 2023

Set along the banks of the Hudson River, Sylvia Sleigh’s Invitation to a Voyage: The Hudson River at Fishkill depicts a summer gathering of friends and art-world figures across fourteen large-scale panels. This panoramic work, totalling seventy feet in length, will be displayed in our new Community & Partnership Gallery, enveloping the viewer in the setting, as the artist originally intended it to be experienced.

Invitation to a Voyage highlights a stretch of the east bank of the river near Fishkill, New York, about fifty miles north of the Museum. Located in the heart of the Hudson Highlands, the scenic area has been a source of inspiration to artists for more than 200 years. Sleigh (American, born Wales, 1916–2010) was first impressed by the beauty of this part of the river on a train trip to Albany in 1961, the year she immigrated to the United States with her husband, art critic Lawrence Alloway. She joined the feminist art movement in the 1970s and was well known for her large-scale portraits of nude men that reversed the male gaze.

Years later, in 1979, Sleigh planned a trip upriver with Alloway and a group of their art-world friends, including Susan Kaprov, John Perreault, and Jeff Weinstein, to embark on the creation of Invitation to a Voyage. The artist posed her models along the railroad tracks with a backdrop of Pollepel Island and the ruins of Bannerman’s Island Arsenal, built by Frank Bannerman at the turn of the twentieth century. Back in her studio, working from photographs taken that day, Sleigh divided the panorama into seven panels facing the river and seven facing the shore, ultimately taking twenty years to complete her opus.

Invitation to a Voyage reflects themes that Sleigh returned to repeatedly throughout her career, including self-portraiture, the use of friends and colleagues as models, groups of figures in landscapes, and a running commentary on art history—in this case pastoral gatherings by eighteenth-century French painters. Her creation of an immersive and connective experience along the river is a fitting counterpart to Kengo Kito: Unity on the Hudson, also on view in the West Wing.


Significant support is provided by the New York State Senate and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

This exhibition is supported by the City of Yonkers, Mayor Mike Spano.

Additional assistance for HRM exhibitions is provided by the County of Westchester.

Sylvia Sleigh. Invitation to a Voyage: The Hudson River at Fishkill, 1979–99. Oil on canvas. Gift of the artist, 2006 (2006.03.01).