The Friends of Historic Kingston; Black Dome Press, May 2015. 64 p. ill. ISBN 9781883789817 (pbk.), $18.50.
Reviewed November 2015
This short but heavily illustrated book was published on the occasion of an exhibition held at the Friends of Historic Kingston Gallery in Kingston, New York. It contains two essays, the first a biography of Jervis McEntee (1828-1891) by Lowell Thing and the second, an examination of Hudson Valley artists' homes and studios by William B. Rhoads. Although McEntee was an active participant in Hudson River School circles, specific attention to him until recently has been limited to the study of his journals from 1872 to 1890 and a few exhibitions.
Thing, a local historian, focusses on McEntee's family and life in his multi-section essay, beginning with McEntee's grandparents and ending with his death. This essay offers a rich biographical context for McEntee's work, including travels and relationships with artistic circles of the time, but it does not attempt a deep analysis of the journals, specific pieces of artwork, or Hudson River School philosophies. Thing's essay is followed by a sources list, but it lacks footnotes, which proves especially frustrating when trying to find the specific source of quotations or other information.
Rhoads, professor emeritus at SUNY New Paltz, addresses McEntee's studio-cottage, which was designed by Calvert Vaux, as well as the homes and studios of Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, Frederic E. Church, Charles Herbert Moore, and Caroline Morgan Clowes. The essay is based on his 1988 essay "The Artist's House and Studio in the Nineteenth-Century Hudson Valley and Catskills" and carefully compares the buildings in a fascinating study of artistic space and architecture, complete with footnotes.
The full-color catalog includes photographs and portraits of McEntee and his family and friends, images of artists' studios, and reproductions of McEntee's own artwork. The book contains twenty-six of McEntee's paintings, including full-page reproductions of eleven of his landscapes, many from private collections. The landscape orientation of the catalog allows for examination of the full-page illustrations without turning the volume. A one-page index, mostly of names, closes the book.
Any library with a focus on American art should be interested in this catalog, primarily for the previously unpublished images, but a more comprehensive discussion and analysis of McEntee's artwork and influences may be found in other sources, such as the recently published exhibition catalog Jervis McEntee: Painter-Poet of the Hudson River School (Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art; SUNY Press, 2015).