The Hudson River School

By SUSAN CATTO

Enjoying the Hudson River School

We want to see some of the sights that theHudson RiverSchoolpainted, if any of those places still exist. Can you suggest an itinerary, book or pamphlet that would guide us?-LeonoreLevit,Wilmette,Ill.

Considered the nation's first school of painting, theHudson RiverSchoolencompasses more than 70 artists of the early and mid 19th century known for their realistic landscapes of theHudson RiverValley, theCatskill Mountainsand other locations. The time is right to follow in their footsteps: This month, the National Park Service (with several groups) opened Phase 1 of theHudson RiverSchoolArtTrail, a self-guided tour of seven sites featured in paintings.

Anchoring the tour are the former homes of Thomas Cole (1801-48), considered to be the group's founder, and Frederic Church (1826-1900), one of its best-known artists. Cedar Grove, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, 218 Spring Street, Catskill, (518) 943-7465, lies at the foot of theCatskill Mountainson the western side of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. Across the river, Church's former home, the Olana State Historic Site, on Route 9G, Hudson, (518) 828-0135, is one of the region's most popular destinations, featuring dramatic Persian architecture, lush grounds and river and mountain views.

According to Elizabeth Jacks, director of the Cole site, visiting all seven sites takes at least a day. Some are accessible by car and others by walking trails. "The sites that are the most remote will give you the most rewarding views," Ms. Jacks said.

The new trail brochure includes maps as well as reproductions of the paintings. It is available at sites along the route or by sending a stamped, self-addressed envelope to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Post OfficeBox 426,Catskill,N.Y.12414.

At the New York State Tourism site, www.iloveny.com, you can click on Travel Ideas, then Cultural Tourism, and find a list of 22 sites whereHudson RiverSchoolworks are on view and where the artists lived and painted. Among the best vantage points: Fort Putnam and Trophy Point at the United States Military Academy at West Point, (845) 938-2638; Kaaterskill Falls, Route 23A, Haines Falls; and the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, (845) 437-5632, 124 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie, which has about 25 paintings from the Hudson River School on display at any time.

For hikers, a new book, "Catskill Mountain House Trail Guide: In the Footsteps of theHudson RiverSchool," by Robert A.Gildersleeve, (Black Dome Press, $16.95 ), includes period illustrations and maps to painting sites.

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