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Frederic Church’s Famous Home, Olana, Subject of May 3 Talk at Reynolda House Museum of American Art

WINSTON-SALEM, NC – Reynolda House Museum of American Art will present a talk May 3 at 6 p.m. about Olana, the home of Frederic Church, the most popular artist in mid-19th-century America. The talk, presented in conjunction with the exhibition “Frederic Church: A Painter’s Pilgrimage,” will be given by Sean Sawyer, the Washburn and Susan Oberwager President of The Olana Partnership. 
 
Sawyer will explore Church’s creation of Olana, its rescue from oblivion fifty years ago, and its subsequent restoration by The Olana Partnership and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. with a reception; the talk will begin at 6 p.m. The event is presented in conjunction with Historic Preservation Month and is co-sponsored by the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art, NC Chapter. Tickets are available online at reynoldahouse.org/church and include admission to the talk, the exhibition “Frederic Church: A Painter’s Pilgrimage,” and a reception. Cost is $25 for the public; $10 for members of the museum and students. 
 
Frederic Church, America’s first international art star, returned from his travels through the Near East in 1869 filled with inspiration for the great house that he planned to build on his property near Hudson, New York. Church and his wife, Isabel, impressed by the architecture they saw in cities like Beirut, Jerusalem and Damascus, envisioned a home that incorporated Middle Eastern elements and designs. The exhibition on view at Reynolda illustrates the connections between Church’s travels and his vision for Olana. 
 
 
Church  hired  Calvert Vaux, an architect well known for his successful collaborations with landscape designers, particularly Church’s friend Frederick Law Olmsted. In the fall of 1872, the Church family moved into the second story of the new house while the first floor was finished. In 1888, Church began the studio wing, with guest rooms and a glassed-in observation room in the tower. Stylistically, the building is a villa with  asymmetrical  massing of towers and block masonry punctuated by fanciful windows and porches. The irregular silhouette of the exterior contrasts with the more regular rhythm of rooms arranged around a central hall. On the exterior, Middle Eastern motifs are carried out. Together, the various motifs and themes create an artistic unity, one that is difficult to categorize.
 
About the Exhibition
“Frederic Church: A Painter’s Pilgrimage” (Feb. 9 – May 13, 2018) is the first exhibition to explore the artist’s paintings inspired by his travels to ancient sites in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. More than 50 paintings, oil studies, and drawings from the late 1860s through the early 1880s are on view. Church (1826–1900) took landscape painting to new heights of grandeur and was best known for his large, visually stunning paintings of American scenes as well as views of South America, the North Atlantic, and the Caribbean. But from 1867 until the end of his life, many of Church’s most important paintings represented ancient cities or buildings that he saw during his 1867–69 trip to the Middle East, Rome, and Athens. While Church’s paintings of the New World focused on the natural world, his works from the Old World explored human history. The exhibition brings together nearly all of Church’s most important paintings of the Mediterranean region and Holy Land in order to explore this major shift in his artistic practice. 
 
“Frederic Church: A Painter’s Pilgrimage” has been organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts. Generous support has been provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Henry Luce Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. A significant loan of objects has been provided by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. 
 
Reynolda House Museum of American Art is grateful for the generous support of the exhibition from Presenting Sponsors First Tennessee Bank, Flow Automotive Companies, and Wake Forest University. Special thanks to Major Sponsors Dr. and Mrs. Malcolm Brown, the David R. Hayworth Foundation, the Cathleen & Ray McKinney Exhibition Fund, and the Charles H. Babcock, Jr. Arts and Community Initiative Endowment; Contributing Sponsors Harriet and Elms Allen and Betty and Jim Becher; and Exhibition Partners Dr. James M. Walter, Jr., and The Law Offices of Timothy D. Welborn.  
 
About Frederic Church
Born in 1826 in Hartford, Connecticut, Frederic Edwin Church moved to Catskill, New York, in 1844 where he studied with Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of painters. In 1845, Cole praised his student for having “the finest eye for drawing in the world.” Among the most spectacular of Church’s early landscapes was Niagara, 1857, which made a vivid impression on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1853, Church made the first of two expeditions to South America. When his painting The Heart of the Andes, 1859, was exhibited in New York, it attracted thousands of viewers, and his reputation was confirmed as one of the most famous and successful artists of the 19th century. In 1860, he settled with his new wife, Isabel Carnes, on a hillside farm overlooking the Hudson River in New York State. More travels followed including an expedition to the north Atlantic between Labrador and Greenland, which resulted in Icebergs: The North, 1861, and to Jamaica in 1865 to help assuage their grief after losing their two children to diphtheria. In 1867, Church and his wife, along with their young son and mother-in-law, left on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the Middle East and to Europe. Church built his Persian-inspired home, Olana, in 1870-72, where he raised his four children. He was Parks Commissioner for New York City and a founding trustee of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1966, his home became a New York State Historic Site.
 
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About Reynolda House Museum of American Art
Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is a rare gem among the nation’s cultural institutions. Established in 1967, it presents a renowned art collection in a historic and incomparable setting: the original 1917 interiors of the country manor of R. J. Reynolds. Spanning 250 years, the collection is an uncompromisingly selective one, a chronology of American art, with each artist represented by one work of major significance. Highlights are: Albert Bierstadt, Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, Frederic Edwin Church, Stuart Davis, Martin Johnson Heade, Alex Katz, Lee Krasner, Jacob Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, John Singer Sargent, and Grant Wood. The collection was assembled by the unerring eye of Barbara Babcock Millhouse, granddaughter of R. J. and Katharine Reynolds. The Reynolda experience also features the Mary and Charlie Babcock Wing, which hosts touring exhibitions; Reynolda Gardens, composed of formal gardens and walking trails through the expansive estate; Reynolds family archives; and Reynolda Village, more than 25 of the estate’s original buildings repurposed as shops and restaurants. Reynolda, located at 2250 Reynolda Road, is an affiliate of Wake Forest University. For more information, please visit reynoldahouse.org. Connect at facebook.com/rhmaa and @CurateReynolda.