Hudson Valley Artistry

The works of Jervis McEntee and Thomas Benjamin Pope highlighted the opening of the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art fall exhibitions on Sept. 12.

Both McEntee and Pope were a part of the Hudson River School, an art movement during the 19th century that focused on the landscape of the Hudson River Valley. Art from this time period was heavily influenced by romanticism of American wildlife.

“We have done a [Hudson River School exhibition] every three years over the last 11 years that I’ve been here,” said Amy Pickering, visitor services coordinator at the Dorksy. “It was time for another Hudson River School themed exhibition. [McEntee and Pope] both loosely fit into that category.”

McEntee and Pope’s paintings featured some very familiar sights for SUNY New Paltz students and anyone who has ever been to the Hudson River Valley. Beautiful landscapes of mountains and rivers made frequent appearances in both artists’ paintings.

Christine Beckert, who grew up in the Hudson Valley, drove all the way up from her apartment in New York City to attend the event.

“When I saw the promotions, I had never heard of [McEntee] before,” she said. “But I’m actually breathless right now looking at his paintings. It’s beyond words, they’re so beautiful.”

The artwork reminded Beckert of her childhood and brought her back to a time in her life that she had not experienced in quite a while.

“The nature I grew up with, I just miss it so much,” she said. “I always knew it was exquisite and the fact that it’s been painted to this effect proves that I was right. It’s a beautiful part of the world.”

Steven Skylar, who also grew up in the Hudson Valley, is familiar with McEntee’s work and the Hudson River School.

“When European Romanticism came back, everybody went to Europe to buy paintings and they kind of abandoned these guys,” he said.

The Thomas Benjamin Pope exhibition was also very popular with attendees. The exhibition was curated by fourth-year art history major Chloe DeRocker.

“Last October my professor, Professor Carso, told me that the Dorsky had been given a box of primary source information on Thomas Benjamin Pope from Richard and Marguerite Lease, who are collectors of Pope’s works,” DeRocker said. “She thought it would be an interesting project for me to take on. Once I had the paintings for the exhibition I analyzed them and came up with a layout for the show. I wrote all the wall labels and the information in the gallery guide as well.”

In order to curate the exhibition, DeRocker had to conduct a lot of research on Pope and thus became a huge fan of Pope’s work.

“I think Pope’s works really resonates with the people of the Hudson Valley, especially those from Newburgh and the surrounding area,” DeRocker said. “It’s important to me to have pride in your local area, so being able to showcase an artist who painted so close to home was pretty awesome for me.”

Curator of the Dorsky, Daniel Belasco, explained that connecting with people who live nearby is part of the mission of the museum. Calling attention to two artists who were native to the Hudson Valley and whose work involves landscapes of the region fulfills this mission statement perfectly.

“We really see the Hudson River Valley through the eyes of these men who painted it 150 years ago,” Belasco said. “This is a long time ago but really the struggles that they had 120, 130 years ago are the same struggles that artists have now. They want to make their own art but they also have to connect with the audience. So in a way it’s a very fresh and contemporary story even though the work is from two centuries ago.”

The exhibitions will be on display at the Dorsky until Sunday, Dec. 13.