Artist and ArchitectThe popularity of the Hudson River School came during a time of tension between nature and industry. While Hudson River School painters found their inspiration from the unaltered and natural beauty of the land and the river, life along the Hudson was changing. The Hudson River Valley was a focal point of the industrial revolution, from the invention of the steamboat to railroad construction.
Cropsey was the unique Hudson River School student who found ways to both preserve and embrace the nature through his art and to contribute to the rise of industrial development.
As a child, the noted artist and Hastings resident Jasper Cropsey was “something of a prodigy.”
with “both an artistic and a mechanical bent,” writes William Nathaniel Banks, in Ever Rest, Jasper Francis Cropsey’s house in Hastings-on-Hudson New York.
At the age of 13, Cropsey won a diploma from the Mechanics Institute for a model house he had designed.
While Cropsey’s tranquil canvases of Hastings-on-Hudson in the mid to late 1800s are well-known, lesser known is the fact he also designed the stations of 14 elevated railway stations built in Manhattan, as well as a blueprint for the Seventh Regiment Armory, also in Manhattan.
Cropsey's sizable collection of architectural drawings have been displayed at the Newington Cropsey Foundation.
Views on “The View at Hastings”In 1987, a custodian discovered an original Cropsey painting in a furnace room of the Hastings High School. “The View at Hastings on Hudson,” in which Cropsey painted what he saw from his Washington Avenue studio to the river in subtle greens and reds, was estimated to be valued at $1 million. (See this Society blog post).
The painting’s donor, a man named Sherman Thursby, wished for the painting to go to “the village,” as he had indicated on the back of the canvas. Village residents debated the implications of this inscription.
The Hastings School Board believed that as “View” was found on school property, and because at the time of the gift the school district effectively pulled the community together, that Cropsey’s work should remain in the hands of school officials. The Board added that the sale of the painting would be an asset for the school system's fiscal crisis at that time.
Beatrice and Barbara
In the early 1960s, Cropsey made the silver screen. While giving a tour of the White House, Jackie Kennedy pointed out a Cropsey original to the TV audience. Beatrice and Barbara both saw the program and were inspired by the longevity of their great-grandfather and his work. This, said Barbara, was "when the slow reawakening of interest in Cropsey began."
Thanks to Cropsey's great-granddaughters, the Newington Cropsey Foundation was established in 1978. The goal of the Foundation, said Barbara in a New York Times article, was to preserve the "moral and artistic values" of her great-grandfather.
The Role of the Foundation
In the decades since its inception the cultural center has had often tenuous relations with the Village of Hastings on Hudson. An article in the January, 2000 issue of the Enterprise describes how "some [Hastings] residents assumed the Foundation would function like other museums."
The article goes on to mention that the directors of the Foundation wanted to build a security fence on the eastern side of the Warburton Avenue Bridge after receiving complaints of trash being thrown over the bridge. The Hastings Planning Board refused to grant this request, citing the importance of maintaining visibility of the Foundation's property from the Bridge.
Warburton overlookers can still sneak birds-eye views of the Foundation's expansive property, with its gardens and fountains and stunning architecture. And the Foundation holds community events from from art exhibits and concerts to high school reunions and garden parties. The Foundation itself, however, remains privately funded, and tours are granted by appointment only.
In spring of 1979, the artistic legacy of Jasper Cropsey and the cultural past and present of Hastings-on-Hudson intertwined seamlessly for an event called "Jasper Cropsey, A Hastings on Hudson Centennial Celebration." An informational brochure for the event discussed "the link between the artistic and public domains in Hastings," stating that Barbara and Beatrice "have been in a unique position" reconciling the two.