Catskill Creek, New York
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 26 1/2 x 36 in. ( 67.3 x 91.4 cm ) Framed: 37 5/8 x 47 5/8 x 4 1/2 in. ( 95.6 x 121 x 11.4 cm )
Credit Line: The Robert L. Stuart Collection, the gift of his widow Mrs. Mary Stuart
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Object Number: S-157
The Catskill Mountains were an important subject for Cole from the beginning of his career; in 1836 he moved to the village of Catskill on the west bank of the Hudson River, and the distinctive undulating mountain peaks were a regular motif in his work. In this painting from his late career, the artist acknowledged the encroachment of civilization on his beloved mountains, but nonetheless depicted them as a haven where man and nature could harmoniously co-exist.
From the 1820s on, the Catskill area became an increasingly popular tourist destination and commercial enterprise made inroads as well, to Cole's grave concern. In 1836 the Canajoharie & Catskill Railroad begin clearing land for a 26-mile line. In a letter that year to his patron Luman Reed, Cole fumed at "the dollar-godded utilitarians" who were cutting down trees in the valley. In this autumnal twilight view, the ax-hewn tree in the left foreground is a pointed reminder of man's presence, and the smoke in the background, carefully placed at the center of the composition, hints ominously at growing industry in the area. However, the viewer's eye ultimately rests upon the foreground figure pulling his small boat from the water as a companion, almost hidden in the rocks, gestures toward the still-wild, primeval woods.
Stillman & Durand, eds., "Sketchings," The Crayon, Vol. III, No. 2, February 1856, pp. 123, 57
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Sweeney, J. Gray, '"Endured with Rare Genius:' Frederic Edwin Church's 'To the Memory of Cole,"' Smithsonian Studies in American Art, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Winter, 1988), p. 48.
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"Winter Antiques Show," New-York Historical Society, January 20, 2005-January 30, 2005.
Indianapolis Museum of Art, June 2005.
"Nature and the American Vision," New-York Historical Society, March 13, 2005-January 25, 2008.
"Nature and the American Vision," New-York Historical Society, April 4, 2008-January 25, 2009.
"Nature and the American Vision," New-York Historical Society, April 17, 2009-July 12, 2009.