Hudson River Valley: Olana a State Historic Site. Olana is one of the most important artistic residences and planned landscapes in the United States; it is the last and perhaps greatest masterpieces created by Hudson River School artist Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900). Church designed the landscape and his Persian style home on and around the same hilltop where, as an eighteen-year-old student, he sketched spectacular views of the Catskill Mountains and the river alongside his mentor Thomas Cole.
Above: The house. Frederic and Isabel Church, impressed by the architecture they saw on their travels in cities like Beirut, Jerusalem and Damascus, envisioned a home at Olana that incorporated Middle Eastern elements and designs. The contents of the house today, accumulated by Church over a 30-year period, include furniture, tapestries, rugs, bronzes, paintings, sculptures, and the myriad objects collected by Church to represent the major civilizations and religions of the world. The color scheme and stenciling that Church designed in 1870 remain, and from Church's studio the visitor can still see the vistas recorded in his paintings.
A stylized overview of the Olana landscape.
Olana – The landscape. Olana's landscape was created over a period of forty years of Frederic Church's life and many consider it his greatest work. Over 250 acres of an artist-designed landscape can be experienced by walking over five miles of carriage trails that bisect the property.
Above: visitors relax looking out onto the Hudson River, which bends towards infinity, the view that inspired many of Church’s paintings.
Olana – the paintings. Frederic Edwin Church, The Bend in the River, c. 1870-73, oil on off-white academy board.
Note. The view in painting is the same as the photograph above.
Olana – the paintings. Frederic Church constructed the landscape at Olana in the same manner that he constructed landscapes in his paintings: with an eye to composition, balance, and fidelity to nature. Although Olana was a working farm, expected to turn a profit, Church also wanted the property to be pleasing to look at. He used the Hudson River and mountains in the distance as a background to a composition with carefully planned foreground and middle ground elements.
Above. Fredric Edwin Church, Catskill Mountains from the Home of the Artist, c.1871, oil on canvas.
Olana – the cutting garden. Throughout his life, Church continued to develop the grounds, laying out miles or roads and planting thousand of tree, as he created this “living landscape”.
Olana – the garden. Rustic benches of Church's design and rustic railings have been recreated on site.