Hudson River Artist Takes Paintings on Tour

Frederic Edwin Church (search) knew how to work a 19th century crowd.

When he put a single 10-foot painting of an exotic South American landscape on display in a New York (search) gallery, more than 500 people a day flocked to see it for weeks. In 1859, "The Heart of the Andes" provided a rare glimpse at the faraway lands intriguing explorers of the time.

Reminders of such career highlights were what Church chose for display inside Olana (search), the intricately designed, Persian-style villa on a hill overlooking the Hudson River he had built in the 1870s.

For the first time, 18 oil paintings from Church's personal collection are leaving the state historic site for a six-city traveling exhibition that opened last month at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown.

"Treasures from Olana: Landscapes by Frederic Edwin Church" contains many works that are studies or sketches, small-scale but complete versions of his best-selling large pieces. Included is the study for "The Heart of the Andes," which hung in Olana's east parlor just off the home's entryway.

Church's goal in the painting was to present the natural variety of Ecuador, from the lush jungles to the bare plateaus to the snowcapped peaks.

"He really took landscape around the world and brought his audience there with him," said Paul D'Ambrosio, the museum's chief curator. "You think of Church as somebody who was able to transport his audience to where he was."

Inside Olana was the best of Church's world, and clearly, his was a world worth seeing.