07.01.15

SCHUMER REVEALS: LONG LOST ART TREASURE PAINTED BY THOMAS COLE, THE FATHER OF THE HUDSON RIVER SCHOOL, HAS BEEN MIRACULOUSLY DISCOVERED; SENATOR URGES FEDS TO FUND HISTORIC RESTORATION PROJECT TO UNCOVER PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN MURALS AT ARTIST’S HOME IN CATSKILL IN GREENE COUNTY

 The Thomas Cole Historic Site In The Village of Catskill, Where The Great American Landscape Artist Lived, Has Discovered Murals That Cole Painted, Previously Hidden Under Layers Of Wall Paint 

Schumer Urges Chairman For The National Endowment for the Humanities & Acting Director For The Institute of Museum and Library Services To Expeditiously Approve The Cole Site Grant Requests Of Over $600K So That These Lost American Treasures May Be Restored 

Schumer: Wall Mural Is A Historic Discovery

Standing at the Thomas Cole Historic Site, US Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Chairman for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and Acting Director for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to provide critical grant funding for the home of the great American landscape artist and founder of the Hudson River School, Thomas Cole. The historic site, located in the Village of Catskill in Greene County, recently discovered that Cole had painted decorative friezes in two of the rooms of his home around 1836, which are believed to have been covered by common wall paint around 1900. The paintings were unknown and lost to history until recently, when efforts to restore the rooms and their original color revealed the hidden treasures. Schumer said that, since the discovery, the site has found strong evidence that the paintings are, in fact, by the American master, and as such are bona fide American art treasures.  

The Thomas Cole Historic site has applied for a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for $460,000 and an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant for $150,000 to uncover and restore these priceless works. Schumer revealed that he has reached out to NEH Chairman William “Bro” Adams and IMLS Acting Director Maura Marx to strongly support the expeditious approval of this crucial funding to uncover these gems.

“This is an absolutely amazing discovery for Upstate New York and all of us who love the Hudson River School painters. Without the initial federal grant last year, who knows how long these beautiful murals would have remained undiscovered. This is just further evidence that additional federal funds are desperately needed to preserve these works of art in a timely manner,” said Schumer. “That’s why I’m urging these two federal entities to work together and swiftly approve the funding needed so Cole's murals can once again be revealed. We need to do all we can to ensure these treasures can be enjoyed by all who visit the site for generations to come.”  

Schumer explained that the Thomas Cole Historic Site, located in the Village of Catskill in Greene County, is the site of the preserved home of American painter, poet, and essayist Thomas Cole. Cole is most famous for his landscape paintings of the Hudson River Valley that inspired the Hudson River School, which encompassed a movement of landscape artists and enthusiasts influenced by romanticism that sought to depict the beautiful Hudson River Valley and its surrounding areas, including the Catskill, Adirondack, and White Mountains. According to the Thomas Cole Historic Site, Cole became known for his vision of wild and untouched scenery.

Schumer said that the Thomas Cole Historic Site was awarded an NEH Planning Grant in 2014 for the purpose of designing a new visitor experience to the site, including creating a new interactive narrative, restoring the original interiors, and making the site more representative of Cole’s upbringing and career. However, during the federally funded restorations, internationally renowned paint finishes expert Matthew Mosca discovered decorative paintings in Cole’s home in the in the East and West Parlours, presumably from the 1830s. These decorative friezes in two of the rooms in his home had been covered by common wall paint around 1900. Schumer said the Thomas Cole Historic Site immediately began a request for NEH and IMLS grants to begin restorations that would allow historians and art experts to fully uncover the paintings and preserve them for future viewing while maintaining the structural integrity of the house.

Schumer said these beautiful murals would have never been discovered without this federally funded restoration project. Now, he says additional funds are needed to restore and uncover more of these gems that are expected to be found in Cole’s former home. The Thomas Cole Historic Site has long sought grants to fund restorations of the. Since 2009, the site has been working to complete a comprehensive proposal to restore the furnishings, wall décor and overall interior throughout the house. The goal of the plan was to make the house a more accurate representation of Cole’s home during his upbringing and childhood. In 2014, the Thomas Cole Historic Site received the NEH Planning Grant that allowed them to begin implementing their proposed changes. Mid-way though the restoration project, Mosca was brought to examine the original color of the walls in several of the first floor rooms. Much to his amazement, he discovered a decorative painting by Cole and later discovered parts of friezes in the East and West Parlours that spurred this subsequent and unsuspected effort.

In order to expose the paintings and then restore them, the Thomas Cole Historic Site has applied for federal grant funds from both the NEH, in the amount of $460,000, and the IMLS, in the amount of $150,000. These grants are critical to ensuring the site can bring in the appropriate experts to preserve the walls of the house while simultaneously exposing the paintings. The grants will also fund a complete restoration of the East and West Parlour in the Main House and bring interactive exhibits to enhance the visitor experience. In addition, the grants will pay for a multi-media presentation in the East Parlour and a recreation of the frieze in the West Parlour.

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site preserves and interprets the home and studios of Thomas Cole, whose profound influence on America's cultural landscape inspires the site to engage broad audiences through innovative educational programs that are relevant today. The Thomas Cole National Historic Site serves both local residents and visiting tourists, and has seen rapid growth in visitation. Total current visitation to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site is approximately 20,000 people per year. The Thomas Cole National Historic Site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and a National Historic Site in 1999. Cole was a 19th century artist known as the father of the Hudson River School. His paintings are known for their realistic depictions of American landscape and wilderness.

Schumer was joined by Betsy Jacks, Executive Director of the Thomas Cole Historic Site, and members of the Board of Directors, as well as, community leaders from Catskill and Greene County.

“Thomas Cole's home has always been a magical place, but our recent discovery of Cole's own hand-painted designs on the walls turns this 1815 house into a work of art by an American master. The painstaking work of the paint analyst has so far revealed a few tantalizing fragments, and immediately we made it a priority to find the funds to reveal the full design, restore the interior rooms that Cole designed, and share these findings with the public. We are so grateful to Senator Schumer for his support for this exciting project,” said Betsy Jacks, Executive Director of the Thomas Cole Historic Site.

Copies of Senator Schumer’s letters to the NEH and IMLS appear below:

Dear NEH Chairman Adams:

I am pleased to write in support of the application submitted by The Thomas Cole National Historic Site (TCNHS) for an Implementation Grant of $400,000 from the NEH’s program for Museums, Libraries, and Cultural Organizations, as well as support for a position in public humanities for $60,000.  Such funding will enable the TCNHS to engage visitors more deeply with the humanities themes that are raised by the life, art and writings of Thomas Cole.

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is the home of Thomas Cole (1801-1848), founder of America’s first major art movement, the Hudson River School.  Located on 6 acres in the Hudson Valley, the site includes the 1815 Main House, 1839 Old Studio, a visitor center, and several other buildings. The TCNHS is a National Historic Landmark and an affiliated area of the National Park System. The TCNHS preserves and interprets the home and studios of Thomas Cole, whose profound influence on America's cultural landscape inspires the TCNHS to engage broad audiences through innovative educational programs that are relevant today.  The TCNHS serves both local residents and visiting tourists, and has seen rapid growth in visitation.  Each year the TCNHS presents loan exhibitions, bringing press coverage and repeat attendance.  Total current visitation to TCNHS is approximately 20,000 people per year.

Having now completed an NEH-funded planning grant, the TCNHS proposes to implement an interactive multimedia exhibition entitled “A Guest in the Home” in the first floor of the 1815 Main House.  The proposed exhibition will be created in the c. 1815 Main House and its c. 1880 annex that formerly housed staff offices, and will open in May 2017.  The TCNHS has a track record of success with interactive and digital projects as evidenced by programs that were funded by five grants from the NEH in recent years.  The TCNHS also partnered with the NEH on a current traveling exhibition on Thomas Cole for NEH on the Road.  The proposed project is based on extensive research and uses imaginative formats in order to engage broader audiences than have traditionally attended historic house museums.  I applaud the Thomas Cole National Historic Site for its foresight and sincerely hope the application meets with your approval.

Thank you for your consideration. 

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

 

Dear IMLS Acting Director Marx:

I am pleased to write in support of the application submitted by The Thomas Cole National Historic Site (TCNHS) for $150,000 in funding through theMuseums for America grant program in the “Learning Experiences” category.  Such funding will enable the TCNHS to create permanent interpretive exhibits that engage audiences with the issues that are raised by Thomas Cole’s life, art and writings.

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is the home of Thomas Cole (1801-1848), founder of America’s first major art movement, the Hudson River School.  Located on 6 acres in the Hudson Valley, the site includes the 1815 Main House, 1839 Old Studio, a visitor center, and several other buildings. The TCNHS is a National Historic Landmark and an affiliated area of the National Park System. The TCNHS preserves and interprets the home and studios of Thomas Cole, whose profound influence on America's cultural landscape inspires the TCNHS to engage broad audiences through innovative educational programs that are relevant today.  The TCNHS serves both local residents and visiting tourists, and has seen rapid growth in visitation.  Each year the TCNHS presents loan exhibitions, bringing press coverage and repeat attendance.  Total current visitation to TCNHS is approximately 20,000 people per year.

With funding, the TCNHS will create and install new permanent interpretive exhibits that engage audiences with the issues that are raised by Thomas Cole’s life, art and writings.  Funding will be used to implement phase one of an interactive multi-media installation and reinvent the interpretation of the home and studios of Thomas Cole.  The proposed exhibition elements – including historic interiors both with and without audio, audiovisual segments, interactive environments, guided portions, self-guided areas, participatory experiences, and integration with web-based programs – will be designed to attract new audiences and bring them insights into America's cultural history and its relevance to the present.  I applaud the Thomas Cole National Historic Site for its foresight and sincerely hope the application meets with your approval.

Thank you for your consideration.

 

Sincerely, 

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

 

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