Thomas Cole’s studio, demolished 40 years ago, is coming back to life

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Thomas Cole’s “New Studio”, demolished 40 years ago, is now coming back to life.

After a long campaign of research, fundraising and construction, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill is nearly ready to unveil its new “New Studio,” an on-site replica of the Italianate building that Cole himself designed as his own place to paint. The original New Studio was built in 1846, about 75 yards from Cole’s home, Cedar Grove. The artist used it until his death two years later, and for a time his family kept it just as he had left it as a sort of shrine, his last unfinished painting still on its easel. But by 1973 the structure had deteriorated so badly that it was torn down.

Reconstructed according to Cole’s original plans, the New Studio will become a space for public programs and exhibitions, opening its doors on May 1 for “Thomas Cole: The Artist as Architect,” which will run through October 30. To celebrate the project’s completion and the new exhibition, whose centerpiece will be Cole’s 1840 painting The Architect’s Dream, the Historic Site is hosting a series of lectures on topics related to the painter’s interest in architectural design and the integration of buildings into the landscape.

This Sunday afternoon, the aptly named art historian William L. Coleman will give a talk at the Cole house on “Thomas Cole’s Country Houses.” Last year Coleman wrote a dissertation titled “Something of an Architect: Thomas Cole and the Country House Ideal” to attain his PhD in the History of Art at the University of California at Berkeley. Now a postdoctoral fellow in American Art at Washington University in St. Louis, he has just curated an exhibition for that institution’s Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum called “Abodes of Plenty: American Art of the Inhabited Landscape.”

Coleman’s lecture at Cedar Grove will recount how Thomas Cole’s surviving drawings for the New Studio tell a story of ambition, frustration and resiliency in the face of professional setbacks, and share insights on the artist’s notion of how best to inhabit the landscape that came to the forefront during the rebuilding process. The talk begins at 2 p.m. on March 13 in the Cole house, located at 218 Spring Street in Catskill. Tickets cost $9 general admission, $7 for Thomas Cole National Historic Site members. To purchase, or for more information, visit www.thomascole.org/current-events.

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