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Painter Henry Ary, Hudson and the Catskill Mountains

Henry Ary (1807-1859) was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and came to live in Hudson in 1844 when he was in his thirties. He painted in and around the towns of Hudson and Catskill for most of his career and lived here for the rest of his life. Ary began his career as a portrait painter in Albany, eventually painting two notable portraits of presidents George Washington and Martin van Buren. His portrait of George Washington still hangs in Hudson’s City Hall, while that of van Buren apparently incited riots in the 1830s when it was exhibited on the steamer South America. In 1833, Ary moved from Albany to Catskill where he met painter Thomas Cole and, inspired by the beauty of the Hudson Valley and encouraged by Cole, began painting landscape subjects. Ary taught painting at the Hudson Female Academy, located at 400 State Street, where Elihu Gifford, father of Sanford Gifford, was a trustee. Ary also instructed Hudson River School artist John Bunyan Bristol.



The landscape surrounding the City of Hudson in the nineteenth century offered artists interesting compositions with contrasting textures of mountains, water and flat shoreline. The view of Mount Merino from Hudson was widely painted at this time, but no artist painted this scene more than Henry Ary. Until the 1850’s, Mount Merino and South Bay were known mostly for their agricultural and commercial purposes. It was Henry Ary’s paintings of this site that focused attention on the natural beauty of this landscape. The latter half of the nineteenth century brought changes to South Bay below Mount Merino, including the introduction of rail service. The railroad began laying tracks along the river in 1847, and by 1851, the New York & Harlem Railroad opened service from Manhattan to Rensselaer. The Hudson River School painters tended to work around the physical additions to the local landscape, focusing their imagery on themes of natural beauty. In contrast, Ary frequently chose to include the man-made additions to the landscape in his compositions, advocating a progressive philosophical view of landscape painting in the nineteenth century.

On the west side of the Hudson River, Henry Ary was influenced by his mentor, Thomas Cole, and later sketched there with his friend Sanford Gifford. Ary approached his Catskill subjects with similar compositional techniques, illustrating harmony in the natural world alongside the intrusion of humans on the landscape. Compared to the relative bustle of Hudson in the mid-nineteenth century, the Catskills offered real wilderness and seclusion. A Camp in the Catskills is an example of the landscape painting Ary did in the Catskills with Cole’s encouragement. By 1854, Ary was exhibiting his landscape paintings at the National Academy of Design in New York City. Though he came to specialize in views of Hudson and Mount Merino, Ary’s landscape views of the Catskills were significant in his development as an artist, and in his commitment to the beauty of the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains.

We are delighted to offer Henry Ary’s A Camp in the Catskills, Lot 531 in The Fine Sale, April 27-28, 2019.


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