American School, Nineteenth Century View of Hook Mountain (Above Nyack, New York) Oil on canvas

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American School, Nineteenth Century

View of Hook Mountain (Above Nyack, New York)

Oil on canvas

Frame size: 30 3/4” x 40 5/8”

Canvas size: 26 3/8” x 35 7/8”

Provenance: Descended in the Joseph Cornell family of Utopia Parkway, Queens, New York

This much beloved painting illustrates Nyack, New York as it would have appeared in the nineteenth century. Originally owned by the family of famed twentieth-century modernist artist, Joseph Cornell (1903-1972), this colorful paintings depicts a charming Victorian gingerbread house (perhaps the home of a family friend) situated in front of the gorgeous Hook Mountain, a popular landmark just north of Nyack. Several vignettes pepper the verdant landscape, including a child in red sitting on the front porch, a child in blue working at the well, several children with an American flag playing hoops, and ladies with parasols being driven in a coach. This vibrant and cheerful painting of the quintessential, nineteenth-century New York village, located on the Hudson River 19 miles north of Manhattan, is a wonderful testament to the enduring beauty and charm of Nyack.

This painting was originally owned by the parents of Joseph Cornell, and it was kept in the Cornell’s Nyack home until the premature death of Joseph’s father. After Joseph Cornell, Sr.’s passing, the Cornell family moved to Utopia Parkway, Queens, bringing this painting with them. By all accounts, Joseph and his sister, Elizabeth, were very fond of this painting. No doubt, it evoked many positive memories of lazy days spent in Nyack.

Joseph Cornell was an extremely shy and reclusive artist who was often associated with the French Surrealists. He is best known for his inventive box constructions, experimental films, and collages. His collages often comprised of found objects, including seashells, marbles, toys and illustrations, which he plucked from souvenir shops, penny arcades, dime stores, and trash bins. The subjects of his works often addressed his childhood pursuits and adult passion for astronomy, ballet, film, and nineteenthcentury French literature. Unsurprisingly, his highly allusive artwork often contained more than one meaning. Describing his process, Cornell famously asserted: “Everything can be used, but of course one doesn’t know it all the time. How does one know what a certain object will tell another?” Cornell died in 1972 in Queens, New York.