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Monthly Archives: March 2016

“The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World,” and how it inspired one of Frederic Church’s greatest paintings

The upcoming Spring ’16 issue of The Hudson River Valley Review will feature a cover article by David Schuyler on the Saving of Olana. The house and grounds of Frederic Church’s estate is one of the jewels of our region, and the Olana Partnership continues to enrich it further with programs such as this upcoming talk by author Andrea Wulf.

On Saturday April 9 at 4 pm at the Hudson High School, the Olana Partnership proudly presents an illustrated lecture and book signing with internationally-acclaimed author Andrea Wulf.  The event will be Wulf’s first East Coast stop on her United States and United Kingdom tour.


The Invention of Nature” Andrea Wulf’s newest New York Times best-selling and award winning biography reveals the extraordinary life of the visionary German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and how he created the way we understand nature today.  Perceiving nature as an interconnected global force, he turned scientific observation into poetic narrative, and inspired Frederic Church on numerous levels.


“More than any other painter Frederic Church answered Alexander von Humboldt’s appeal to unite the arts and the sciences. I can’t wait to visit Olana and to have the opportunity to talk about Humboldt’s ideas and concept of nature – many of which became so important for Church” stated Wulf.


Though almost forgotten today, Humboldt was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. His restless life was packed with adventure and discovery, whether climbing the highest volcanoes in the world, paddling down the Orinoco or racing through anthrax–infested Siberia. Humboldt discovered similarities between climate zones across the world and predicted human-induced climate change. His writings inspired naturalists and poets such as Charles Darwin, Henry Wadsworth and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as well as politicians like Thomas Jefferson and artists like Frederic Church.


Humboldt’s writings are documented in his five volume series Kosmos written between 1845-1896.  It was these writings that inspired Frederic Church to “follow in the footsteps” of Alexander von Humboldt and travel to the same locations in Columbia, Ecuador, Mexico and Germany painting the natural world that so fascinated Humboldt.  The entire journey can be summed up in one of Church’s most famous works “The Heart of the Andes.”  The connections and influence Humboldt had on Church will be on display in the 2016 exhibition at Olana titled “Capturing the Cosmos” opening on May 15.


Andrea Wulf was born in India and moved to Germany as a child. She lives in Britain where she trained as a design historian at the Royal College of Art. She is the author of “The Brother Gardeners” and the co-author of “This Other Eden.” Her book “Founding Gardeners” was published to great acclaim in spring 2011. Her “Chasing Venus” was published in 2012 in eight countries in conjunction with the last transit of Venus in our century. Her latest book, “The Invention of Nature” has received rave reviews and has been voted the 10 best books of 2015 by the New York Times.


To pre-register, please visit or call Olana’s Education Department at 518-828-1872 ext. 105. Walk-ins are welcome. The Hudson High School Auditorium is located at 215 Harry Howard Avenue, Hudson, NY 12534.  Tickets to the illustrated lecture are $10 for members of The Olana Partnership and $15 for non-members.


The Olana Partnership programming has been made possible in part through support provided by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency; the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation; the Educational Foundation of America; the John Wilmerding Education Initiative, and the members of The Olana Partnership.

About Olana and The Olana Partnership: Olana is the greatest masterpiece of Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), the preeminent American artist of the mid-19thC and the most important artist’s home, studio and designed landscape in the United States.  Church designed Olana as a holistic environment integrating his advanced ideas about art, architecture, landscape design, and environmental conservation. Olana’s 250-acre artist-designed landscape with a Persian-inspired house at its summit embraces unrivaled panoramic views of the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains and, today, welcomes more than 150,000 visitors annually.

Olana State Historic Site, a historic site administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Taconic Region, is a designated National Historic Landmark and one of the most visited sites in the state. The Olana Partnership, a private not-for-profit education corporation, works cooperatively with New York State to support the restoration, conservation, and interpretation of Olana State Historic Site. 2016 will mark the 50th anniversary of this public/private partnership. To learn more about Olana and The Olana Partnership, please visit

In/Filtration Poetry Reading at Marist College

In|Filtration: An Anthology of Innovative Poetry of the Hudson River Valley (Station Hill Press, 2016).

On Thursday, February 11th, 2016 Marist College hosted a reading for the newly published poetry anthology, In|Filtration:  An Anthology of Innovative Poetry of the Hudson River Valley.

There were twelve poets who read that evening and who included:  Dorothy Albertini, Celia Bland, Brenda Coultas, Christopher Funkhouser, Daniel Gilhuly, Nancy Graham, Jim Handlin, Claire Hero, Lori Anne Moseman, George Quasha, Sparrow, Charles Stein and Ron Whiteurs.

Dr. Lea Graham of Marist College and In|Filtration editor, Sam Truitt, hosted a well-attended evening that lasted for two hours.

In|Filtration contains some of the most recognized names in contemporary poetics, including John Ashbery, Ann Lauterbach, Ed Sanders, Bernadette Mayer, Robert Kelley among other up and coming poets of the Hudson River Valley.

According to the review by eco-writer, Mark Spitzer:  “There’s a vast bio-diversity of subgenres here that’s reminiscent of the actual ichthyological demographics that exist in the Hudson River itself. To make an ecosystem analogy for this anthology, we can look to William Least Heat-Moon’s memoir River Horse (Houghton Mifflin, 1999), in which he writes:


Beyond the numerous biological arguments (such as self-preservation) for clean water and abundant life in the river is the poetry in the names of Hudson fishes. How impoverished the river would be without stonerollers, horny-head chubs, comely shiners, margined madtoms, northeren hogsuckers, hogchokers, short-head redhorses, four-beard rocklings, mummichogs, naked gobies, striped searobins, slimy sculpins, and—more rarely—oyster toadfish, gags, lookdowns, four-eye butterfly fish, northern stargazers, freckled blennies, fat sleepers, and whole classes of bowfins, anchovies, needlefish, pipefish, silversides, jacks, wrasses, puffers, and flounders (left-eyed or right-eyed).

The Hudson River Valley, of course, is a sort of continental Mesopotamia. That is, from this early cradle of the country’s literary civilization arises a sort of Babylonian library of towering poetic identities as diverse as the Hudson’s enduring fisheries. Thus, a spectrum of voices and visions and histories is endemic to this mighty rolling river collection, which is not only “in conversation” with prior traditions (as noted above), but has the potential to shine a spotlight on a truly American bouillabaisse of cutting-edge poetics, with two major results. The first being a manifesto-like affirmation and declaration that a highly complex and sophisticated literary culture exists in what Gorrick and Truitt term “our poetic ecology.” The second being the potential for this anthology to act as a model for other poetic fisheries. Because having researched fisheries, and having researched poetic movements, I can confirm that the most successful fisheries are not just those that propagate and preserve species; they’re the fisheries that teach other fisheries how to be effective in the field.”

–Mark Spitzer, University of Central Arkansas (February, 2016)

Greatest Rivalry in Sports

“There is only one day a year out of the 365 when we are bitter rivals…that is during the Army-Navy game.  Worldwide we are brothers and sisters in arms, doing what our country calls us to do in the profession of arms.”

-Brigadier General, Timothy Trainor

The Army-Navy football game has become what many deem as the greatest rivalry in college sports. Every year excitement surrounding the game builds, reaching its climax during the week prior. The motto “Beat Navy!” can be seen and heard throughout the West Point campus.  At Annapolis, it is “Beat Army!” While the winner is awarded the Thompson Cup, the true prize is the inter-service “bragging rights” for the entirety of the following year.

The ferocity of the rivalry has become a platform of tremendous enthusiasm and support for the armed forces. Neither West Point nor Annapolis have the capacity to host the annual game at their respective stadiums anymore. The game is now hosted at Lincoln Financial Field, the home stadium of the National Football League’s Philadelphia Eagles. The stadium is able to accommodate the enormous crowds that flock to the event and its ideal location is halfway between West Point and Annapolis. The Army-Navy game is traditionally hosted as the last regular season game, holding the greatest significance for seniors who will soon be stationed and deployed worldwide. The 2015 Army-Navy Game marks the Rivalry’s 116th meeting and 86th time played in Philadelphia. While the game has evolved into a national spectacle of patriotism, its beginnings were of a far more humble nature.

The rivalry began 125 years ago when Cadet Dennis Mahan Michie accepted the “challenge” from the Naval Academy. On November 29, 1890 the Army Black Knights and Navy Midshipman faced off at the West Point Military Academy here in the Hudson River Valley. The Midshipman earned the first victory of the series, yet the Black Knights stormed back with vengeance in their second meeting. Since the game became an annual event, it has only not been played on 10 different occasions. The few cancellations occurred due to Army’s cancellation of its entire schedule after the death of Cadet Eugene Byrne in the game against Harvard, as an order from the War Department during WWII, and due to eligibility disputes in the 1920’s. During wartime the game becomes increasingly emotional, as some of the senior players and cadets will not return. In 1944, West Point graduate General Douglas MacArthur sent the team a telegram from the pacific following their victory proclaiming, “The greatest of all Army teams … We have stopped the war to celebrate your magnificent success. MacArthur.” With appearances from the majority of high ranking officers, and the president himself, the game has become a symbol of American military pride, especially in times of great adversity.

Navy leads Army in the series all time, 60-49 with 7 ties, dominating the 21st century matchups. In the 2015 matchup Navy outlasted the Black Knights in a close victory 21-17, bringing their win streak to 14 games. The rivalry between academies is fierce, but the reality remains that on the battlefield the two military forces fight hand-in-hand. The greatest significance of the event remains that for the 60 minutes of play the United States forces of land and sea battle one another. Win or lose as the final seconds of clock expire the brotherhood is renewed.

-John Brennan


2016 Cunneen-Hackett Lecture

Announcing the 2016 Cunneen-Hackett Lecture in Hudson River Valley History featuring Colonel James Scott Wheeler, USA (Ret.) Ph.D. In his talk, “General Jacob Devers, from the Hudson to the Rhine,” Colonel Wheeler will explore the many contributions of General Jacob Devers, during his time at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and as an underappreciated army group commander in the European Theater of Operations during World War II. The lecture will take place on Thursday, April 21, 2016 at 7 pm in the Nelly Goletti Theatre of the Marist College Student Center.

Colonel Wheeler is the author of numerous books on military history. His most recent title, Jacob L. Devers: A General’s Life was released in 2015. A White House Fellow and former armor battalion commander, he is a retired professor of history at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

The Charlotte Cunneen-Hackett Lecture Series in Hudson River Valley History, established in 2001, was created to advance the appreciation of the rich heritage of the Hudson River Valley and to promote its history.