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Poestenkill, New York: Summer

Probably 1865-1872
Origin: America, New York, Poestenkill
Unframed: 20 1/8 x 29 11/16in. (51.1 x 75.4cm) and Framed: 23 3/8 x 33 1/16 x 1 1/8in. (59.4 x 84cm)
Oil on wood panel
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1958.102.17
A townscape in bird's-eye view, with two roads crossing at right angles in the center of the composition. The (visually) primary road starts at center foreground and progresses into the distant mountains, which have a purplish hue. Clouds above them are shown in long diagonal configurations. A stream parallels the primary road to the left, crossed by a wooden bridge. Buildings line the roads, with small fields running behind houses and barns. Daily activity is incorporated (cows grazing, people walking, several wagons traveling the roads, etc.). A large white church with a prominent steeple appears at the right, facing the secondary road.
The 2-inch gilded cyma reversa frame is a late nineteenth century addition.
Label:This is one of five known views of Poestenkill that Hidley painted during his lifetime, the earliest of which is dated May 10, 1862, and is owned by the New York State Historical Association at Cooperstown, New York. (See note 1). The earliest view differs significantly from AARFAM's 1958.102.17 in both composition and detail, since it was taken from Snake Hill, at the east end of the town. One nearly identical composition showing the town in summer or spring and two winter views (AARFAM's 1958.102.16 is one of these) were composed from a western location. (See note 2). Together, all of the Poestenkill pictures form a remarkable series that documents the physical details and everday life of the town over a period of about twenty years.
That Hidley's goal was to record in the most meticulous manner the locations and types of buildings and their uses is clear from a thorough study of the paintings along with city directories, other period documents, and the survival of many of the same structures in present-day Poestenkill. A few buildings were destroyed and others erected, while the ownership and function of some buildings changed during the 1860s and early 1870s. For instance, when the New York State Historical Association's version was painted in 1862, the large church in 1958.102.17 at center right had not been constructed. (See note 3).
One of the most interesting aspects of Hidley's approach to townscape painting is seen in this and 1958.102.16. Either intentionally or because of lack of technical skill, Hidley used an unorthodox type of multiple perspective in rendering the town's buildings. There are few common vanishing points, and each structure has been turned so as to give the viewer a fuller pictorial description of its facade. Since these paintings were probably commissioned by townspeople, it was important that each element be accurate and easily identifiable. The elevated viewpoint in each of the Poestenkill pictures also was contrived by the artist and assisted him in achieving his goal, although the detailing and juxtapositions of the buildings, roads, and other elements must have been sketched on site. (See note 4).
The artist's residence, which still stands in Poestenkill (1988), is seen in this and the next view as the house on the far side of the crossroads, at the right corner, across from the large building with a colonnaded porch. (See note 5). According to family tradition, it was in the shed behind this structure that Hidley did his painting and taxidermy work. Although not detailed here, the cemetery where the artist and his family are buried is located on the hillside at left and just above the bridge that crosses the Poestenkill, the stream for which the town was named.
This version of Poestenkill ranks among the artist's finest in terms of overall execution. The radiating clouds in pastel shades of blues, pinks, and yellows were finely developed in a series of small brush strokes blending the colors; Hidley's typical palette of viridian green and soft blues for landscape elements was carefully balanced with the ochers and rich tans used for the banks along the stream and for the roadways.
Provenance:Puchased from an unidentified dealer in Troy, New York, by A. Leland Lusty, Troy, NY, ca 1940; Clifton Black, location unknown; J. Stuart Halladay and Herrell George Thomas, Sheffield, Mass.
Halladay died in 1951, leaving his interest in their jointly-owned collection to his partner, Thomas. Thomas died in 1957, leaving his estate to his sister, Mrs. Albert N. Petterson, who was AARFAC's vendor.