It may be said that Henry Ary is the most Hudson of the Hudson River School painters. He wasn't born here, as Sanford Gifford and Ernest and Arthur Parton were. Ary was from Providence, Rhode Island, but he came to Hudson when he was thirty something, made his living as an artist here, and stayed here for the rest of his life.
Ary began his career painting portraits in Albany. Gossips has told the stories of two of his more notorious works: the portrait of Martin Van Buren, which incited a riot, and the portrait of George Washington, which still hangs in the Council Room at City Hall. In 1833, Ary, then 26, moved to Catskill, where he met Thomas Cole. It was Cole who persuaded him to try his hand at landscape painting. Ary settled in Hudson a decade later, around the time, in 1845, when he started exhibiting his landscapes at the National Academy of Design.
South Bay and Mt. Merino were favorite views for Ary, and in his paintings he doesn't try to idealize the landscape by leaving out the presence of commerce and industry. Art historians see this as evidence that Ary "viewed this aspect as a harmonious part of nature." It has also been suggested that the patronage of Elihu Gifford, the owner of the Hudson Iron Works and father of artist Sanford Gifford, may have played some part in Ary's seemingly benign attitude toward the intrusion into the landscape of industry and commerce. Whatever the explanation, the Ary's inclusiveness makes his paintings wonderful documentation of Hudson in the middle of the 19th century.
Recently, Peter Jung was commissioned to sell a little known Henry Ary painting, and it is with the permission of the owner, who now lives in North Carolina, and Jung that Gossips shares it with readers.
This painting of Promenade Hill is dated 1854, the year Ary started teaching drawing and painting to fourth year students at Rev. Hague's Hudson Female Academy, which was located at 400 State Street. It shows sloops on the river, a wharf and buildings at the bottom of the bluff, the Hudson Iron Works in the background and Mt. Merino beyond, and Promenade Hill before the fence was erected and the Georgian style mall was "Victorianized" in 1878.
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