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Presidential Memorial Dinner Lecture - Spectacular Wonders of Distant Lands

The Robert H. Rose Presidential Memorial Dinner Lecture
This inaugural Explorers Club Presidential Memorial Dinner Lecture is dedicated to an esteemed Explorers Club member who has gone on to higher exploration: Robert H. Rose, Benefactor of Exploration. The opening, brief memorial tribute is a new Explorers Club tradition that endeavors to keep our dear and greatly-missed friends ever present in our hearts and minds. The evening will commence with a Robert H. Rose photo montage, narrated by those who knew him best, after which we will all rise during the playing of the fanfare.

Spectacular Wonders of Distant Lands - Exploring, Sketching & Collecting: Frederic Church & Lockwood de Forest

When Frederic Church was eighteen, he began to draw from nature and was sent to study with Thomas Cole, a successful and important American painter. Rather than continue his painting studies in Europe, which was expected of artists of his day, he ventured to exotic locales in search of light and color and the glories of nature he found around him.

In 1853, Cyrus W. Field, who would later lay the Atlantic cable, urged Church to accompany him to South America in search of a brother who had vanished. Because of his interest in dramatic landscapes, nature, science, and the spectacular wonders he expected to find in the Andes and the primitive forests near the Amazon, Church decided to go. While in South America, he spent a few months in Colombia and Ecuador, went six hundred miles up the Magdalena River, and traveled on a mule to see volcanoes in the Andes. His South American paintings were well received after his return, but his painting of Niagara Falls, exhibited in 1857, was so popular that it was exhibited to crowds as the only work in the dealer's gallery. His next painting to stun audiences was The Heart of the Andes in which he tried to show in a single, large canvas all of the wonders of a second trip to South America.

In 1859, Church was at the height of his career, enjoying great reputation and celebrity. His painting Niagara was in its third year of attracting viewers and The Heart of the Andes had attracted large crowds first London and then in New York and Boston. Exploration in the Arctic was important during this time, and Church traveled to see icebergs off Labrador and Newfoundland. The Middle East also beckoned.

During his extensive travels, Church sketched in pencil and oil, accurately capturing the flora and the topography. He collected specimens – birds, butterflies, rocks and ferns - that he used to inform his epic paintings, The Heart of the Andes (1859), The Icebergs (1861) and El Khasné, Petra (1874). He formed a large collection of commercially produced photographs of places he visited – Labrador, Jamaica, and Mexico as well as places of interest, including India.

Lockwood de Forest, Bank of the Nile, Opposite Cairo, Egypt, 1879/86, oil on canvas, 30 x 48 in.
Gerold Wunderlich & Co, New York

In 1870 after his trip to the Middle East, Church built his home, Olana, in the Hudson Valley. It began in 1860 as a small working farm and expanded to eventually include a 250-acre designed landscape with 5 miles of carriage roads, a 10-acre man-made lake and spectacular views of the Catskill Mountains, Hudson River and the surrounding countryside. A parcel of property at the top of the hill, purchased before his trip to the Middle East, became the site for a new Persian-inspired building, Olana.

During this time, Church mentored the young aspiring artist Lockwood de Forest (1850-1932). De Forest and Church first sketched together at the Acropolis.

As De Forest witnessed Church designing his house, he became excited by the possibilities of architecture and exotic pattern. In the early 1880s, de Forest partnered with Louis Comfort Tiffany with the goal of importing Indian woodwork, furniture and textiles to the United States. De Forest spent two years traveling throughout India as well as Kashmir and Nepal. He purchased a variety of goods for his partnership with Tiffany and set up a workshop in Ahmedabad that produced beautiful carved teak from which de Forest created mantels, furniture and entire room interiors. De Forest, like Church, an avid sketcher, produced beautiful images from his travels to India, Egypt and the Middle East.

Andy Wainwright, Court Hall in the Main House at Olana, 2004
© Andy Wainwright

In the mid-1880s, Church and de Forest collaborated, adding a variety of Indian decorative arts to the main house at Olana. This season, All The Raj: Frederic Church and Lockwood de Forest: Painting Decorating and Collecting at Olana - an exhibition in the Sharp Family Gallery at Olana - features oil sketches and paintings by both artists and a selection of Indian decorative arts collected by Church, many of which were designed by de Forest.

Dr. Kevin Avery, Senior Research Scholar, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Adjunct Professor, Art Department Hunter College, City University of New York, will discuss 19th-century Hudson River School painter, Frederic Church (1826-1900), an artist-explorer who skillfully recorded his exotic expeditions to South America, Newfoundland and Labrador, Jamaica, and the Middle East through his paintings that attracted blockbuster audiences. An avid backpacker, Dr. Avery has toured extensively in the regions depicted in Hudson River School paintings, including the Catskills and the White Mountains, but also in Ecuador, to the sites depicted by Frederic Church in his most renowned paintings. Recently, he has been a major contributor to the Hudson River Art Trails website, a guide to scenes rendered by the Hudson River painters.

Amy Poster, Curator Emerita, Asian Art, Brooklyn Museum, will focus on Church’s student, Lockwood de Forest (1850-1932), his travels in India, and his transformation of Indian teakwood to furnish America's Aesthetic Movement homes. Her talk will feature the path of his exploration in India, his factory in Ahmedabad, and some of the outstanding interiors he designed in America.

Date: 10/28/2014

Time: 6:00 pm Reception, 7:00 pm Dinner, 8:00 pm Presentation

Location: Club Headquarters, 46 E 70th Street, New York, NY, 10021

Member Ticket Price: $65

Guest Ticket Price: $70

Reservation Notes:

Reservations are allotted on a first-come, first-serve basis.

To secure a place, please call us at 212.628.8383 or email us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Cancellation/”No Show” Policy:

* If a reservation is canceled after Friday, October 24, there will be No Refund of the ticket price.
* There are no refunds for a “No Show” to a catered event.

On November 1st, there will be an indoor Guided Tour of Olana, an outdoor tour of the grounds, and a view of the Exhibition, “All The Raj: Frederic Church and Lockwood de Forest: Painting, Decorating, and Collecting at Olana.” Please click here for more information.

Top photo: Andy Wainwright, View South from the Bell Tower, Main House, Olana, 2004, ©Andy Wainwright

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Background image photography courtesy of members Christoph Baumer, Neil Laughton, Matt Harris and Don Walsh's image of the Bathyscape Trieste