Thomas Cole’s Refrain: The Paintings of Catskill Creek

November 22, 2019–February 23, 2020

“The paintings contain mysteries—enigmatic figures, evocative human structures, and symbolic landforms—that tell stories of their own.”

– H. Daniel Peck, Exhibition Curator and John Guy Vassar, Jr., Professor Emeritus of English at Vassar College

Thomas Cole’s Refrain: The Paintings of Catskill Creek, will illuminate masterpieces from major museums and private collections, and explore the deeper meanings of Cole’s Catskill Creek paintings, considered as an integral series, for the first time. The exhibition is based on new scholarship developed by H. Daniel Peck, Exhibition Curator and the John Guy Vassar, Jr., Professor Emeritus of English at Vassar College, in his book of the same title, published by Three Hills, an imprint of Cornell University Press. Created during the eighteen-year period between 1827 and 1845, which spans Thomas Cole’s mature career, the artist’s paintings of Catskill Creek constitute the most sustained sequence of landscape paintings he ever made.

The exhibition includes twelve original oil paintings by Thomas Cole, and represented, as well, are paintings of the Catskill Creek scene by leading nineteenth-century artists who were inspired by Cole: Asher B. Durand, Frederic Edwin Church, and Charles Herbert Moore. The works include Cole paintings from private collections that have rarely been seen in public: View Near Catskill, 1828–29, and Settler’s Home in the Catskills, 1842, as well as major works from the collections of the New-York Historical Society, Yale University Art Gallery, The National Gallery of Art, Albany Institute of History and Art, Olana State Historic Site, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, and The Currier Museum of Art.

The view of the Catskill Mountains that frames the Catskill Creek in Cole’s paintings can still be enjoyed from the Thomas Cole National Historic Site today, and a stretch of land along Catskill Creek has been preserved as a public park by Scenic Hudson and Greene Land Trust.

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Thomas Cole’s Refrain: The Catskill Creek Paintings was organized by the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in association with the Hudson River Museum and is made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the Arts, Wyeth Foundation for American Art, Marshall Field V, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, Empire State Development’s I LOVE NEW YORK program under the Market NY initiative, The Bay & Paul Foundations, the Enoch Foundation, The Educational Foundation of America, Joan K. Davidson through the J. M. Kaplan Fund, and the Kindred Spirits Society of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Curated by H. Daniel Peck, John Guy Vassar, Jr., Professor Emeritus of English at Vassar College, with the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

At the Hudson River Museum, the exhibition is supported in part by Generation Yonkers.

Thomas Cole. Catskill Creek, New York, 1845. Oil on canvas. New-York Historical Society, The Robert L. Stuart Collection, Gift of his widow Mrs. Mary Stuart, S-157.

Selected Press

"An exhibition of the English-born painter’s lesser-known Hudson Valley scenes evinces his love for natural beauty and sorrow over its devastation."

‘Thomas Cole’s Refrain: The Paintings of Catskill Creek’ Review: Elegies for an Imperiled Landscape The Wall Street Journal (August 10, 2019) ↗

"You know that temporary relief has arrived when your heart stabilizes and your mind clears. With Cole, the catalyst is marvelling."

Timelessness in Works by Thomas Cole and Brice Marden The New Yorker (June 3, 2019) ↗