The Hudson River Valley and New England are especially rich in artists’ studios and homes, offering a behind-the-scenes opportunity to glimpse the motivations and settings that impacted creativity.
Artist Edward Hopper in Nyack, New York
Edward Hopper’s haunting cityscapes are familiar to visitors to the Whitney Museum of American Art, but it’s his early home in Rockland County that provided much inspiration and context.
The Nyack countryside in New York gave him ample exposure to light and landscape, which he incorporated into his many depictions of city and country life in the 20th century.
The Edward Hopper House Museum & Study Center currently serves as an exhibition space for exhibitions relating to Hopper and works of various artists.
Where to Stay:
Hotel Nyack – Designed by the David Rockwell Group, Hotel Nyack is the first boutique, lifestyle hotel in Rockland County and part of the Joie de Vivre/Hyatt collection. The stylish rooms and spaces add a fitting design element to your art getaway.
The Castle Hotel and Spa – A short drive from Nyack, The Castle Hotel and Spa in Tarrytown will inspire your creative muse with its original architectural elements. In an envious location overlooking the lower Hudson River Valley, the distinctive castle dates from 1897 and was designed in the style of a Norman fortification in Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
The Artists of the Hudson River Valley
Thomas Cole is synonymous with the Hudson River School. It was Cole who gave birth to America’s first significant art movement and his landscapes occupy an important place in museums like the National Gallery, New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
After a visit to Cole’s beautiful Catskill home with its sweeping views of the Catskill Mountains, you might just be tempted to pause a while with your own sketchbook. The Thomas Cole National Historic Site features changing exhibits of landscape paintings.
In nearby Hudson, Frederic Edwin Church, the second important painter of the Hudson River School, established his family home, studio and estate. Unlike his teacher Thomas Cole, Church is best known for paintings of exotic locales instead of the local scenery that Cole favored.
Resembling a Hudson River School painting, the Olana State Historic Site covers 250 acres and includes Church’s Persian-inspired house with commanding views of the Hudson River Valley. On display are paintings by Church as well as other collected art.
Manitoga/The Russel Wright Design Center in Garrison invites visitors to spend time contemplating Wright’s seamless merging of indoor and outdoor design. This famous house, created by industrial designer Russel Wright, seems to flow effortlessly into beautiful gardens with waterfalls, an example of the modernist design he introduced to the world.
The setting was transformed from a ravaged industrial site into a spot for artistic creativity with miles of paths and views of the Hudson River.
Where to Stay:
The Maker Hotel – Newly opened in the artsy-Boho town of Hudson, The Maker Hotel is filled with vintage and current arts, crafts and works from local artisans and makers. A perfect complement to the artists’ homes in the Hudson River Valley, the hotel also has a notable dining room and fitness options.
Artist Studios and Homes in New England
Another favorite area of artists, the Berkshires in western Massachusetts is the location of Chesterwood, the summer home, studio and gardens of lauded American sculptor Daniel Chester French. One of America’s foremost public sculptors, French created more than 100 monuments including the acclaimed Minute Man in Concord, Massachusetts and Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial.
Many of the original plaster models and sculptures in bronze and marble can be viewed in his Stockbridge home. Visitors are welcome to wander the European-inspired gardens, particularly beautiful in the spring and autumn.
The next town over, Lenox, is the site of Bauhaus-inspired Frelinghuysen, the two-story white stucco and glass, modernist home of Suzy Frelinghuysen and George L.K. Morris, painters, collectors and founders of American Abstract Art.
The house is notable for its contrast to the “cottage”-type architecture found in the area. The house museum displays an extensive collection of mid-century art including the couple’s own cubist works.
Where to Stay:
The Inn at Kenmore Hall — The first summer arts colony in the Berkshires in the 1880s, Kenmore Hall in Richmond counted Daniel Chester French among its students. Today, the history-filled B&B has been lovingly restored by the former menswear designer of J. Crew with appropriate design and appointments for an intimate stay in a gorgeous setting near the attractions of the Berkshires.
Maine‘s Art Studios and Homes
Winslow Homer was inspired by the rough coastlines of Maine, particularly those in the southern part of the state. His studio, located on Prouts Neck in Scarborough, is overseen by the Portland Museum of Art.
If you walk along the peninsula and the beach, you’ll understand the chilly, rocky images that Homer painted. You might even recognize some the views from paintings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Museum or Chicago Art Institute.
Homer spent 17 years at this location, living in the simple understated structure and painting from a balcony overlooking the ocean. To visit the studio, you must first stop at the Portland Museum of Art – a chance to see some of the artist’s paintings – and then board a shuttle to Prouts Neck.
As early as 1850, Monhegan Island in Maine had become a magnet for artists. The headlands of the remote island and its wild, car-free setting were a draw for creative souls, appealing with their natural beauty and simplicity.
Up steep Light House Hill, artist Rockwell Kent built a home and studio that was later used by artist James Fitzgerald and portraitist Alice Stoddard. Kent painted much of what he saw daily en plein air focusing on regional realism while Fitzgerald’s watercolor interpretations of the area were created from memory and sketched indoors.
Kent’s famous Winter, Monhegan Island is a stylized depiction, on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Artworks created by Fitzgerald and Stoddard are shown in the nearby Monhegan Museum of Art & History.
Where to Stay:
The Black Point Inn – On a sweep of beach on Prouts Neck in Scarborough, the classic Maine resort is a look into the relaxed history of the area. With its waterfront location, traditional Maine dining, and classic architecture, the inn will help you understand why Winslow Homer chose this location for his studio.
The Island Inn — You’ll understand why Monhegan Island appeals to artists when you stay at the inn. Overlooking the harbor with scenery that becomes the main event of the day, the Island Inn embodies simplicity, allowing the environs to remain the star of the show.
Simple rooms and a popular porch with rocking chairs along with Adirondack chairs on the lawn invite you to relax after a day of exploring the island and the art.
If all this has piqued your curiosity, The National Trust for Historic Preservation and writer Valerie A. Balint have created a guide that covers these areas and more, including detail and photos for 44 artists’ homes and working studios in 21 states.