Taking that Boat Cruise to Hudson Valley

Our contributor, David Lucas has written another FANTASTIC article for us! Just in time for short Spring-weekend trips out of the city. Let's take a ride to Hudson, for the antiques, the river views, the incredible up-incoming food scene...and of course, the ARTS!  

If you love fine arts and live in the Hudson River Valley, as I do, you’re no doubt familiar with the Hudson River School of painters. The luminaries of this school were Thomas Cole and his pupil, Frederick Church. Also prominent in the genre was Jasper Cropsey (1823-1900.)A short train ride from Manhattan—one that feels like a boat cruise, as much of it is along the Hudson riverbank—are Ever Rest, Cropsey’s historic home and painting studio, and the Newington-Cropsey Foundation, a private establishment built to house and display his work.

First, let's take you to the Newington-Cropsey Foundation

The Foundation’s provenance is a fascinating one. Though the Hudson River School was extremely popular in the middle of the 19th century, by the beginning of the 20th, it had faded drastically in popularity, due to the rise of American Impressionism. Cropsey downsized as the market for his paintings softened, selling a large property in Warwick, Orange County and relocated to more modest accommodations in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. He bought a charming wooden house overlooking the ravine where Hastings paving blocks were being manufactured. (Will chat more about this house later!) 

Interesting Side Note: These are the ubiquitous hexagonal paving blocks you see around New York City, which were made from crushed stone from the Palisades plus tar shipped up from the Caribbean. They’re still manufactured by the same company, long since relocated to Long Island.

Before Cropsey died, he sold off most of his landscapes and studies to ensure the perpetuation of his estate. His heirs, however, were able to repurchase many of them before the prices went back up. A great-granddaughter, Mrs. Barbara Newington, collected more paintings in the 1980s, just before a major national reconsideration of the Hudson Valley School caused the value of his work to skyrocket. Mrs. Newington convinced the town of Hastings to let her acquire what was by now the town dump, and she built virtual village, with a rambling Palladian gallery building, a foundry for casting sculpture, outbuildings, huts, gardens and a large pond teeming with koi.

Tours of both the museum and Ever Rest are by appointment, Monday through Friday.

They’re worth taking a day off for a trip. On my first visit, I drove through the iron gates and was told by a guy with a clipboard, at the gatehouse, that a Mr. Speiser would meet me at the front door of the gallery building. Speiser, who it turns out is the director of the institution, had me sign a ledger, gave me a shiny catalogue and asked if I was familiar with the Hudson River School. When I replied that I’d spent my high school years in the Smithsonian and was knowledgeable about the genre, he ushered me into the soaring, Parthenon-inspired main picture gallery and we spent the next hour talking about whatever I wanted to talk about. It was one of the best hours I’ve ever spent in a museum. In another bright gallery space looked at paintings, some of which had never been seen before in public and talked about Cropsey’s legacy and the history of the village. The same space hosts changing exhibitions, all of representational art. (No abstraction for Mrs. Newington.)

Now, let's take a ride to Ever Rest...yes, very different from Everest.

On another occasion, I took a vacation and rode my bicycle along the Old Croton Aqueduct, which parallels the Hudson in lower Westchester and abuts the Cropsey properties. I parked my bike on the porch of the yellow and white Carpenter Gothic house, nearly hidden from the street by lush evergreens. Again, I was the sole participant on my tour. Ever Rest feels as though the Cropsey family had just vacated in the middle of the 20th century, with their history intact. The paintings are a bit easier to approach and the painting studio is set up as it was in the artist’s lifetime.According to Mr. Speiser...

“The Newington-Cropsey Foundation was created in 1977 to share the historic home and paintings of Jasper F. Cropsey with the public. We have strived to promote classical art and art that reflects Cropsey’s goal of finding beauty, spirituality and inspiration in nature. Art exhibitions, lectures, and our American Arts Quarterly are some of the means used to attain our goals, in addition to conducting tours through Cropsey’s home and our permanent collection.”

If you fancy a little more exploring...

If you visit the Foundation, explore Hastings, a charming and livable suburb. Within walking distance of Metro North are a delightful assortment of shops and restaurants. Suburban Renewal is good for vintage finds. Clockwork Records specializes in Death Metal and Punk but puts crates of jazz fusion, soundtracks, disco and yacht-rock outside— 6 for $5. There are a wide variety of eateries. Maud’s Tavern—helmed by the delightful Maud—has a lively crowd who like to dine at the bar and discuss the vicissitudes of life. But when the weather is warm, there are a handful of tables outside under a tree, where you can sip a well-crafted martini and watch the commuters trudge up from the train station, with the Palisades as a backdrop. Saint George is a romantic French bistro with beautifully-crafted dishes. Boro6 is a sort of enoteca or wine bar—no kitchen but a selection of wines and cheese plates, salumi and sandwiches. The chalkboard they put out on the sidewalk last week advertised martinis and sardines. The luncheon of champions, if you ask me. 

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