Come by and visit us at 407 Broadway between 10AM and 2PM on Saturday, December 5th. It will be your last chance to catch our 2009 exhibitions, including the displays on the Hudson-Fulton Celebration of 1909 and on John William and Henry Draper’s contribution to celestial photography. You can also help to support the good work of the Historical Society by stocking up on our t-shirts, postcards, prints, throws, and maps, buying yourself a copy of the Arcadia Press book on Hastings, or renewing your membership. They all make wonderful gifts. If you can’t make it to the cottage, take a look at our “Emporium” on the web site. It includes pictures of all our offerings and a mail-in order form. Give us a call if you have any questions.
We also have some lovely note cards with Hastings scenes that make perfect Season's Greetings cards. Our best seller since 1982 is this lovely little watercolor painting by Jasper F. Cropsey showing a sleigh flying down Ravensdale Road.
In Cropsey’s day, Hastings was much less built up than it is today, and his many paintings of our town show an area where the presence of human beings had not yet disfigured the natural landscape. And it was the natural landscape that inspired Cropsey, as you can tell from this letter that Cropsey wrote to John Wickliffe Kitchell in November of 1897.
“Some years ago, one winters day, I felt like having a little recreation—and a tramp in the snow—which lay freshly fallen, and very tempting in the sun-light. It did not seem cold—the air was so soft, and glorious; although a biting frost prevailed and with buttoned up overcoat I wended my way nearly knee-deep, out, and along the Farragut Avenue, here, near my place at Hastings-on-Hudson till I came to a turning called Ravensdale Road. This struck my fancy as being delightful, picturesque, and artistic. I immediately turned in, on this lovely road. By this time the sun had warmed the sky, and an afternoon glow had begun to prevail. A little further tramping and I entered a bit of wood, in which the snow lay pure and soft, and untrodden; tinted with gleaming sun light that flitted in, and out through the stately tree-trunks warming the branches with roseatic light, while it deepened every little hollow in the more obscure parts of the woods, with a cool shadow. Thus, I tramped along, admiring the beauty of the soft blue in the sky overhead—the warmth and glow in the fresh snow besplattered tree trunks: when turning to take a moments breath, I had before me, ... just as the sleigh came dashing along, the subject of your picture, cool and tender, as no language can describe.
It is needless to say, I went no further but then and there made notes which I embodied in the picture which was produced on my return home of which I think you are to be congratulated as the happy possessor.”
Cropsey is referring to the fact that Kitchell had recently purchased one of his paintings entitled “The Ravensdale Road in Winter.” Kitchell’s painting and the painting on our note card are two of Cropsey’s variations on the same theme. Not all are dated, but they must have been produced after 1885, when Cropsey first moved to Hastings.
Another of our Cropsey note cards, "Winter on the Hudson," painted in 1887. The original painting is in collection of the Newington-Cropsey Foundation
John Wickliffe Kitchell was a mid-westerner who had made his little fortune in developing coal mines and farming land in Illinois. In the 1890s he retired and began to enlarge his art collection. His favorite artist was Jasper F. Cropsey. Between 1897 and 1900, Kitchell purchased twenty of Cropsey’s paintings through the St. Louis dealer Alfred Newhouse for a sum in excess of $5,000. This must have seemed like a fortune to an artist who spent the last years of his life in poverty.
Kitchell liked to have a “pedigree” for his paintings, and Newhouse encouraged Cropsey to send Kitchell notes about the paintings he bought, giving him some description of the subject—whether it was Greenwood Lake, Niagra Falls, or Storm King. It was perhaps from these letters about Kitchell’s purchases that a friendly correspondence developed between Kitchell and Cropsey. Kitchell urged the artist more than once to visit him at his home in Pana, Illinois. But Cropsey, worried perhaps about the cost of the trip, always excused himself, explaining that he simply had too much work.
Kitchell’s painting, along with his correspondence with Cropsey, is now in the collection of the MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois. The painting on our note card is in the collection of long-time Historical Society friend and supporter Barbara Newington. And there are several other versions of the Ravensdale Road theme in other collections, in watercolor and oil. One of these, a watercolor entitled “Winter—Ravensdale Road,” sold at auction at Christie’s in 1995 for $45,600.
And yet another! "The Ravine at Hastings," a watercolor painted by Cropsey in 1895 and showing a view down the Ravine only a few years before the Warburton Avenue Bridge was built, with the pond in the center, a few of the houses near the railroad tracks, and, in the distance, steamships and sailing boats on the Hudson. The original painting is in the collection of the Newington-Cropsey Foundation.