For most of his life, Joseph Henry Hidley (1830–1872) was a resident of the rural town of Poestenkill, Rensselaer County, New York. Generally known today as the painter of a few remarkable mid-nineteenth-century townscapes, and little else, current research conducted by regional art historian, Warren F. Broderick, has identified dozens of works by Hidley that expand our understanding of this rural, self-taught artist. In addition to townscapes, Hidley also painted religious scenes, still lifes, imaginary American and European landscapes based on published prints, and decorative wall paintings.
Popular elements appear in a number of his landscapes, such as waterfalls split by rock formations, sailboats and chalets with rock-covered roofs. He also was fond of creating skating and sleighing scenes in both American and European settings. While few works can be dated, his technical ability seems to have improved markedly during his twenty year career. Hidley’s paintings, found in private and public collections, are often unattributed due to the common and incorrect perception that his work consists merely of townscapes.
The exhibition, Joseph Hidley: Folk Artist, is the first devoted solely to this little understood painter, and the first to bring together works from both public collections, including the Fenimore Art Museum and the Hart Cluett Museum, and works from numerous private collections. When viewed together, the paintings, prints, wall decorations, and family photographs will offer viewers a window onto the life and world of this regional artist. A catalogue will accompany the exhibition.