In the mid-1850s, John Casilear’s career of more than 30 years as an engraver was gradually coming to an end, leaving him financially comfortable and free to focus on painting. He did just that by taking a second trip to Europe in 1857 to compile a fresh collection of ideas and sketches for future subjects, and to paint. While he was away, pieces of his artwork appeared in the 1858 National Academy of Design (NAD) Exhibition in New York City and earned praise from high sources.
Harper’s Weekly glowed: “Mr. Casilear’s power is in exquisitely delicate, vignette-like sketching…. A dreamy tranquility of atmosphere, with delicate-hued hills, a thoughtful spire, a gleaming brook — beauty in repose, and in detail — these are the subjects in whose delineation Mr. Casilear is so eminently successful.” » Continue Reading.
The 19th century paintings and photographs of Keene Valley inspired artists to seek out the depicted images of Nature and experience it for themselves. A number of years ago I fell under the same spell when I looked at the artistic interpretations of the High Peaks as seen from the Ausable Lakes.
Seneca Ray Stoddard (1844-1917) made many photographs of those lakes, including at least two of the view of Gothics and Sawteeth, with and without people. In the version with the boats, the people float within the reflections of the mountains. Stoddard’s guidebook, The Adirondacks: Illustrated, published in 1873 and was reprinted for many years, attracting more visitors to the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
Notable American engraver John Casilear took on various projects, including vignettes for book illustrations. In 1839, he worked on the designs for The Token and Atlantic Souvenir, an annual gift book whose contributors at the time included Nathaniel Hawthorne. But in 1840 he embarked on a new adventure, assuming the life of a painter, which began with a trip to Europe to sketch scenery and study the work of the Old Masters.
His companions on the journey were portrait artist Thomas Rossiter and Casilear’s two best friends, John Kensett and Asher Durand. All would one day be identified as artists of the Hudson River School.
They traveled on the world’s largest steamship, the British Queen, and spent much of their time in the countryside on sketching trips, plus viewing the works of European artists at every opportunity. Among the cities they visited were London, Rome, and Paris. Experts later noted the influence of France’s Claude Lorrain as evident in many of Casilear’s landscapes. » Continue Reading.
Artistry — in terms of painting, drawing, sketching, etc. — escapes me. While I admire and enjoy it, the combination of vision, creativity, and especially ability seems foreign, even though I lived with it while growing up. Through learning to read and constantly employing skills in that area, I gradually developed a certain comfort in the world of words, but none of it came to me magically, which is how I viewed the artistic capabilities of two of my siblings: without any lessons or instructions, they could just do it. » Continue Reading.
This year’s Essex County Arts and Crafts Festivals have been set for Friday, July 6th, at the Essex County Fairgrounds (at the start of Westport’s July 4th weekend celebrations) and on Wednesday, August 1, a mid-week event at the height of the summer season.
Fine artists and craft artists from across Essex County and the neighboring region are invited to display and offer to sell their work. Attendees are expected from more than 2o states. » Continue Reading.
In early 1897, Neil and Stella Litchfield continued touring in the North Country, appearing at Canton, Chase Mills, Edwards, Lisbon Center, Oxbow, Massena, Morristown, Ogdensburg, Waddington, and other sites. For the next two years, they toured and performed while developing a new act for the future, a comedy sketch titled Down at Brook Farm. Ostensibly, it was loosely based on Brook Farm, a failed Utopian community founded in 1841 in Roxbury, Massachusetts.
The most popular characters Neil had portrayed during the past two decades — uneducated, pure-hearted rural folks — became the nucleus of the new act. Down at Brook Farm was inspired by the popularity of other plays and sketches with “uncle” characters in the title — usually Uncle Josh, at the time featured in shows as Uncle Josh Jenkins, Uncle Josh Simpkins, and Uncle Josh Weathersby. Neil himself gained great praise for portraying the lead role in Uncle Josh Spruceby, playing alongside Stella, who nabbed the second-leading role of Aunt Jerutha. Together they made the show a top hit while touring theaters and opera houses in New York City, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. Sometimes they covered a venue for three consecutive nights, and at other times appeared in three or four different towns or cities during the same week. It was an exhausting schedule but provided great publicity, and allowed time to refine the rural characters for the new act. » Continue Reading.
By 1893, Neil Litchfield and his wife Hattie had resumed touring with other companies that billed Neil as “The Man of Many Faces.” After spending the year with the Vivian De Monto Company, they joined the Reno and Ford Company for the first half of 1894. In August they began touring the eastern and midwestern states with the Prima Donna Company, during which time Neil began to stand out noticeably from his fellow performers. Reviews in Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania agreed with the Syracuse Evening Herald’s assessment that, despite great work by the show’s star, Eva Mecusker, “The most enjoyable thing of the evening was the recitation work of Neil Litchfield, whose ability as a comedian is large and could be employed more than it is with advantage.” A reporter for the Youngstown Daily Telegram wrote, “Neil Litchfield, as the ruralist, was the star of the show. His work was clever, and the reception he got was deserved.”
Late in the year, he performed with James B. Mackie’s company, The Side Show, and received rave reviews. As a budding star, he no longer needed to jump at the next offer, and instead began advertising his services to the highest bidder. In 1895, Litchfield announced his availability in major trade magazines and the entertainment sections of New York City newspapers. That summer, he toured coast to coast with Heywood’s Celebrities company, which provided ample opportunity to test new characters and refine other bits. A few months later, he joined another group, the Alhambra Vaudevilles. As reported in the New York Dramatic Mirror, “Carter, the magician, and Neil Litchfield, the character impersonator, are the leading people in the company.” » Continue Reading.
In 1964, plans were made to celebrate the success of Massena’s nationally famous friend with a special event: Hal Smith Day. Virtually every business and every family in town became involved in the planning, with such crowds expected that tickets and reservations for many events were in hot demand.
Included in the festivities were a group breakfast, lunch, and dinner; a royal welcome that featured a crown made of (what else?) aluminum from the local plant; a visit to the hospital, where he entertained patients; an autograph session at a vacant store transformed by area merchants into a replica of the Mayberry jail; all-day limousine service; band music at several venues; the theater playing movies that Hal appeared in, and autographs for each attendee; a reunion with old schoolmates; induction as a member of the St. Regis Indians; and at the Highland Hotel that night, Hal appeared in the floor show. » Continue Reading.
For millions of people, holidays are all about going home, returning to one’s roots of family and friends. That concept was epitomized by a North Country man who attained great fame in Hollywood, but to his great credit never forgot the home folks — and to their credit, the home folks never forgot him. Whenever he returned to the North Country, or old friends visited him in California, there was always an exchange of love, admiration, and deep appreciation.
He was born in northern Michigan in 1916 as Harold John Smith, about as anonymous a name as one can imagine, and likely one that stirs no sense of recognition. But if Otis Campbell were mentioned, many would instantly recall Mayberry’s affable town drunk from The Andy Griffith Show. » Continue Reading.
Thirty students from across the North Country will compete in the regional New York State History Day contest held at Fort Ticonderoga on Saturday, March 5, 2016. Students placing first and second in their categories will advance to the New York State History Day Contest in Cooperstown on April 18.
Each year two million students across the country participate in the National History Day program according to Rich Strum, Fort Ticonderoga’s Director of Education and North Country History Day Regional Coordinator. Students research history topics of their choice related to an annual theme and create exhibits, documentaries, performances, research papers, and website designs.
Students may enter in competition at the regional, state, and national level. Participants include students in grades 6-8 in the Junior Division and grades 9-12 in the Senior Division. National History Day also provides educational services to students and teachers, including a summer internship program, curricular materials, internet resources, and annual teacher workshops and training institutes. » Continue Reading.
Paul Smith’s College and TAUNY (Traditional Arts in Upstate New York) will hold a daylong festival of music, art and TED-style talks Saturday, April 26, at the Paul Smith’s College VIC.
The event, called SAM Fest – for science, art and music – will feature musical performances by North Country musicians; presentations on Adirondack climate by faculty and students; exhibits of traditional folk and visual arts; maple syrup and refreshments; and a showing of “Green Fire,” an award-winning documentary on Aldo Leopold. » Continue Reading.
In 1920, Charles Giblyn produced his first film for William Fox. (If the name sounds familiar, William founded Fox Film Corporation in 1915, the forerunner of today’s Fox TV and movie units.) The film, Tiger’s Cub, allowed Giblyn a homecoming of sorts. With his lead actress, Pearl White, who reportedly had the widest following of any star worldwide at the time, he came north for filming in Port Henry, about an hour south of Plattsburgh, where he once lived.
After producing a few more movies, Charles was sent to the West Coast on behalf of Fox, where he continued working. For a brief period, he assumed leadership of the Motion Picture Directors’ Association, but when Fox re-assigned him to more movie projects back East, he surrendered the top spot with the MPDA and headed for New York. » Continue Reading.
Members of the Adirondack Artists Guild and Historic Saranac Lake will celebrate Saranac Lake history on Friday, Feb. 7, from 5 – 7 pm, with the opening reception for “Our Kinda Town” an exhibit and silent auction which will run through March 2.
Each year the Artists Guild selects a local not-for-profit for the February show and creates works of art that relate to the theme or mission of the organization. Founded in 1980, Historic Saranac Lake is a not-for-profit architectural preservation organization that captures and presents local history from their center at the Saranac Laboratory Museum. Built in 1894, the Saranac Laboratory was the first laboratory built for the study of tuberculosis in the United Sates. Historic Saranac Lake operates a local history website of over 5,000 pages of at www.localwiki.net/hsl. » Continue Reading.
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