Friday, August 29, 2008

Olana: Orientalist Mansion in Hudson (NY)

During my month at the Millay Colony, I've taken in so much: Shakespeare and Company (Othello), Tanglewood (Kronos Quartet and the Beaux Arts Trio), Jacobs Pillow (Maureen Fleming, one of my teachers), in addition to the previously mentioned trip to the Clark Art Museum and Mass MoCa and Olana.

The American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church built Olana, a Moorish style mansion between 1870 and 1890, a house originally intended to be a French style manor but redesigned after a fashionable trip to the Middle East in the 1870s. Church also landscaped the grounds to created sculpted or planned views at every turn of the road to his house on his 126 acres of land. Intricate woodworking from both the Middle and Far East and Arabic script appear throughout the interior rooms and the colors are certainly evocative of Orientalist inspired colors I saw in Egypt and the above the front door of the main entrance there is a sign of Welcome in Arabic. Everything is intermixed with Victorian era taste and fashion, former high society schtick which is so much what Orientalism seems made of.
Church's early fame came from his contributions to the very regional "Hudson River School" But, like Orientalism, this aesthetic lost favor and Church never regained his earliest level of recognition. Though he continued to paint scenes inspired by the Hudson and his many travels to the East collecting many foreign works of art, Olana, the house and grounds became his artistic focus in later life. It's gorgeous and not too far from NYC. Go!

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