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The Thomas Cole Historic Site Blog


Catskill Mayor Becomes Thomas Cole

For the Second Annual Community Day at the Thomas Cole site, Vincent Seely, Mayor of the Village of Catskill, got into the 19th-century spirit with a top-hat, black cape, paintbrush and palette, as seen in the photo at right. The September 23rd event brought in more than double the number of visitors as the previous year's event, as approximately 425 people of all ages visited the historic home and studio of Thomas Cole. The 2012 event included a new popular feature, an exhibition entitled "Postcards from the Trail," with 250 postcard-sized artworks depicting views from the Hudson River School Art Trail. There was an enthusiastic scramble when the show opened, as all the artworks were for sale for only $100 each. See more photos of the event on our facebook page.


The Art Trail Hits The New York Times

A writer for the Times, Eve Kahn, contacted us a few weeks back, expressing interest in covering the newly added sites on the Hudson River School Art Trail. Our team jumped into action! The Hudson River Valley sites were live on our website and functional, but the New Hampshire and Massachussetts sites were not slated to be finalized until the end of September. The entire Art Trail website was still in "beta" form, but we gave Ms. Kahn access to the hidden pages as we continued to prepare them for a public launch. High-resolution mages were FedExed across the country, texts were proofread through squinty eyes into the wee hours of the morning, information was uploaded to the site as quickly as it came in, and at last, we made the new pages live almost a month ahead of schedule, just as the Times article went to press. The article is amazing - a two-page spread in full color. Wow. In case you missed the print edition, here is the article online:

Click here to see the article online.


The Art Trail Website is Launched

Thomas Cole, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, After A Thunderstorm (The Oxbow), 1836. The Metropolitan Museum of ArtEver wonder where those places are that are in Hudson River School paintings? And how to get to those places and see the same views? Now there's an app for that! Go to, the new website for the Hudson River School Art Trail, and you can download the maps and directions on your smart-phone or ipad -- or just browse the old-fashioned way: on your desktop. 17 sites are identified and mapped for you in the Hudson Valley, with more sites in other states coming this fall (including the site of Cole's famous painting, The Oxbow, seen at right). The Art Trail expansion and digitization is being funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Meet the Family

In the near future, the Thomas Cole site will be publishing a book about Thomas Cole's world here at his home in Catskill, based on new research and new information that has come to light. Now and then I'll be posting little bits from the upcoming publication, including this entry about Cole's children. Shown at right is a pencil drawing of their first-born son Theodore by William Sidney Mount from 1843. "Theddy" was 5 years old. 

Thomas and Maria Cole's first child, Theodore, was born on January 1, 1838, followed by a daughter, Mary, on September 23, 1839. Both Thomas and Maria were doting parents, interested in all details of their children’s activities.

As they grew older, the Cole children attended school and also had responsibilities on the farm at Cedar Grove. Theddy seems to have had a particular interest in animals and was in charge of the chickens and ducks. Maria made the children little hoes when they were only 2 and 4 1/2 so they could join the adults digging in the garden.

One of Cole’s biggest concerns about the children was that they would forget him when he was on one of his many business trips. Calling Mary by her pet name, little Pinky, he wrote to Maria from New York, “I am afraid they will have forgotten me before I get back.” This fear was especially strong during Cole’s eleven months in Europe in 1841-42. Maria letters are full of encouragement, assuring him that his children remember him vividly.

The Cole’s third child, Emily, or “little periwinkle” as Cole sometimes called her, was born on August 27, 1843, earlier than expected. When Cole returned home from one of his many trips, he found that “a little stranger had arrived before me.” Despite the birth of his third child, Cole had to continue to travel and to spend time in New York without his family. He wrote to Maria, “Does little Emily laugh & talk as much as when I was home—tell me all the particulars.” According to Maria, Emily was a good baby and started her “baby talk” earlier than the other two children.

The birth and death of the Cole’s fourth child, Elizabeth, in April 1847 must have been a particularly difficult and painful loss, coming as it did less than a year after the death of Maria's uncle and the owner of their family home in Catskill, John Thomson. On the death of Elizabeth, Cole wrote in his journal, “The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away. Our infant daughter died yesterday afternoon. Its pilgrimage in this world has been short and sinless. God, in his great mercy, has taken it unto himself before the world could defile its spiritual garments.” The Cole’s fifth child, Thomas Cole, Jr., was born September 16, 1847, seven months after his father’s unexpected death at the age of 47.

With thanks to Maureen Hennessey for research and Marie Spano for writing and editing.



Welcoming the 2012 Thomas Cole Fellows

I am delighted to announce our 2012 class of Thomas Cole Fellows, due to arrive here in a few short weeks:

Margot Mache will be graduating from Boston University in May 2012. She majored in History of Art and Architecture and will have a minor in Business Administration and Management. She has worked in public programs at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, as a Project Coordinator at the Association of Architecture Organizations, in media relations at the Royal College of Art in London, and as a research assistant at Boston University with Professor Jodi Cranston. She has led after-school art classes and has been involved in the Boston University Theatre troupe.

Amara McMann earned her MA in the History of Fine and Decorative Arts from the University of Manchester in the UK, and her BA in Art History at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. Most recently she worked as a gallery assistant at the University of North Florida Gallery of Art. During her time there she taught lower level art history courses, as well as a few specialized upper level courses. She has served as an education instructor and docent trainer at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville and during the summer of 2011, led art classes at Camp Walt Whitman in Piermont, NH. Ms. McMann wrote her undergraduate thesis on the works of Thomas Cole and presented a paper analyzing the relationship between Cole’s poetry and his paintings at the 2010 School of Visual Arts conference entitled Green, Greener, Greenest: Romancing Nature Again.  

Madeline Turner will is graduating from Bard College in May 2012. She majored in Art History and Latin American/Iberian Studies. Madeline will bring a wide array of experience and knowledge. Recently she has worked to collect, organize, and edit exhibition information for Art in America’s Chelsea Art Map, as well as the Miami Art Map. She has worked in the education and exhibitions department at DIA Beacon, and as a gallery assistant at the Hessel Museum at Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies. Fluent in Spanish, Turner writes for La Voz and was involved with the Nicaragua Education Initiative in 2011-12. She co-organized ArtTribe New York in 2009.


Spring fever?

Uh-oh, the daffodils think it is spring. We have had a remarkably warm winter and look what we found in the garden today. Hang in there little fellas!


Thomas Cole at the Louvre

Going to Paris anyone? Opening on January 14th is a one-room exhibition of Thomas Cole paintings at the Louvre! And we are hosting a speaker here who is traveling all the way from Paris to tell us about it! The exhibition kicks off a four-year collaboration between the musée du Louvre, the High Museum of Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the Terra Foundation for American Art. Wouldn't Thomas Cole be pleased! In a nearby auditorium, the Louvre will be showing our own Thomas Cole film in a continuous loop - complete with French subtitles. (If you'd like to see our film in English, click here.) Come and hear more about it on March 11th when Dr. Katherine Bourguignon, associate curator from the Terra Foundation for American Art Europe, travels all the way from Paris, France, to speak. Also, click here for a short article about the exhibition.


A Wedding Night

Maria Bartow, played by Brigitte Choura, getting readyExactly 175 years ago today, 35-year-old Thomas Cole married 24-year-old Maria Bartow in the Main House of what we now call the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. Last Saturday we had a little fun with this anniversary and created a light-hearted re-enactment of the event with three professional actors, a three-tiered wedding cake from an 1833 recipe, and a keg of locally brewed beer. Maria's actual 1836 white silk wedding dress was on display for that one night only, so we Cotten family with dress-up propssituated it next to Thomas Cole's original top hat in order to create a little reunion of sorts. Guests were supplied with their own top hats and other flourishes for a photo-shoot, and copies of the hand-written 1836 wedding certificate were given out as party favors. More photos, including one of Maria's 1836 wedding dress, can be seen on our Facebook page. Happy anniversary Tom and Maria!The happy couple cutting the cake


Advertise and they will come.

We had a big crowd at our Community Day this past weekend, with budding Thomas Cole artists at work on a 12-foot-long landscape painting and dancing around to live banjo music. I was glad to see that they also visited and enjoyed our Duncanson exhibition, as you can see in this photo. Best of all, we learned that most visitors had never been to the site before and lived nearby -- exactly who we had hoped would come! How did they find out about the event? It seems that the good old-fashioned sandwich boards around town did the trick.


Hurricane coming to the Thomas Cole site

We don't know how bad the winds and rain will get, so to be safe we will be closed on Sunday August 28th due to Hurricane Irene. Inside, we've made preparations in case there is a leak, and we placed fitted plywood covers over all the windows to be extra secure. In this photo you can see the house all ready for the storm. Be safe everyone!