Winter Amusements Outdoor Exhibition

November 20, 2020–February 28, 2021

Our Winter Amusements Outdoor Exhibition brings a selection of artwork and photographs from the Albany Institute's collection outside for all to enjoy. See the beauty of freshly fallen snow and the joys of sleigh rides and ice skating parties from the past two hundred years. 
 
Albany City Hall
Harry Fenn (1838–1911)
1884, watercolor on paper
Albany Institute of History & Art Purchase, 1994.1.1
 
Albany City Hall was designed by prominent American architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who secured the commission in 1880 when the existing city hall was destroyed by fire. Richardson’s new city hall opened in 1883. Here, the English-born illustrator Harry Fenn painted the prominent building during winter with crowded horse-drawn sleighs rushing by on snow-covered city streets. Fenn became widely known for his fine engravings that illustrated books and periodicals in the latter decades of the nineteenth century.
 
 
The Head Waters
Walter Launt Palmer (1854–1932)
1911
Oil on canvas
Albany Institute of History & Art, gift of Lorraine Foster in memory of CDR William Grandy Foster USN, 2019.42
 
Walter Launt Palmer, an artist known for his winter landscapes, was born in Albany to Mary Jane Palmer and sculptor Erastus Dow Palmer. Throughout his long professional career as a painter he perfected the illusion of shadows on freshly fallen snow. More specifically, he was one of the first artists to paint shadows in colors. His snow scenes, like this one, come alive with blue, violet, and rose-colored snow.
 
 
Winter Sleigh Ride
Joseph H. Hidley (1830–1872)
c. 1865, oil on canvas
Albany Institute of History & Art Purchase, 2020.11
 
Self-taught Rensselaer County artist Joseph H. Hidley likely painted Winter Sleigh Ride from sketches made near his hometown of Poestenkill. This winter landscape displays the alarming effects of logging, which left large areas of the land deforested and exposed to wind and water erosion. Around the same time that Hidley made this painting, the Vermont scholar and U.S. diplomat George Perkins Marsh published his revolutionary book, Man and Nature (1864), the first book to discuss the harmful environmental consequences of clear-cut logging.
 
 
Poestenkill, Rensselaer County, New York
G. W. Lewis, Albany, New York, after Joseph H. Hidley (1830–1872)
1865–1867, tinted and hand-colored lithograph on paper
Albany Institute of History & Art Purchase, 1969.1
 
Joseph Henry Hidley (1830–1872) was born in the family homestead on Hidley Road in what is now North Greenbush, New York. Although he lived in several locations throughout his life, he is best known today among folk art enthusiasts for his paintings of Poestenkill, New York, the town in Rensselaer County where he lived the latter part of his life. This print reproduces one of his paintings that depicts Poestenkill in winter. Hidley had no formal training as an artist and earned his living mainly as a carpenter and decorative painter.
 
 
North Pearl Street, Albany—the Blizzard of 1888
Knapp photographer
1888, albumen photographic print
Albany Institute of History & Art, Morris Gerber Collection, LIB 1993.010.9226.6P
 
During the blizzard of March 11–14, 1888, nearly four feet of snow blanketed Albany, and strong winds formed snowdrifts that reached to second floor windows. Surprisingly, Albany did not receive as much snow as other parts of the Northeast but the blizzard did bring the city to a standstill. In an age before snowplows, digging out in 1888 meant moving snow manually with shovels.
 
 
Ice Castle in Washington Park, Albany
Veeder photographic Studio, Albany, New York
February 1888, albumen photographic print
Albany Institute of History & Art, PC 19, no. 4
 
On February 8 and 9, 1888, the City of Albany hosted the first winter carnival south of Montreal. It lasted only two days but within that short period it held horse races on a frozen track, bobsledding, curling, a parade, tobogganing, ice skating races, and a fireworks display on the closing evening. One of the main attractions was ice castle built in Washington Park near the intersection of Lake Street and Madison Avenue.
 
 
Ice Skating on Washington Park Lake, Albany
Unidentified photographer
1912, gelatin silver photographic print
Albany Institute of History & Art, PA 81
 
Ice skating on Washington Park Lake was an eagerly awaited activity, usually beginning in early January and lasting until early March. Skaters could check their shoes at the Lake House and also buys snacks in the building. The original 1870s wood Lake House is visible in the background. It was replaced by the current brick structure in 1928.
 
 
In the Grove
Walter Launt Palmer (1854–1932)
1923, watercolor, gouache, pastel on paper
Albany Institute of History & Art, gift of Beatrice Palmer, 1942.34.168
 
By the mid-1880s Palmer began working earnestly on his winter snow scenes. Fir trees and barren branches droop under the weight of freshly fallen snow and ice glistens on half-frozen streams in a way that captures the immediacy of the moment. Of all his prolific output—more than 1,000 recorded works—Palmer’s snow scenes are his best known and admired and have led to his being called the “painter of the American winter.”
 
 
John Van Arnam in his Sleigh
Thomas Kirby Van Zandt (1814–1886)
1855, oil on canvas
Albany Institute of History & Art Purchase, 1946.26
 
The Albany artist Thomas Kirby Van Zandt specialized in painting race horses and farmyard animals, but he also painted portraits and genre subjects. This well-dressed gentleman, identified as John Van Arnam of Troy, New York, glides through a snowy winter landscape in his sleigh pulled by a sleek chestnut-colored horse. To give the suggestion of speed, Van Zandt painted the horse with all four legs off the ground. Van Arnam took over the proprietorship of the Troy House, a hotel in the city’s business district, not long after Van Zandt painted his portrait. Before Van Arnam’s untimely death in September 1856, he had managed to furnish the hotel “in a luxurious style, probably superior to any similar establishment north of New York,” according to his obituary.
 
 
Pixie, a Flying Squirrel
Dorothy P. Lathrop (1891–1981)     
1941
Wood engraving on paper
Albany Institute of History & Art, gift of Douglas L. Cohn, DVM, 2020.17
 
Printmaker and children’s book illustrator Dorothy Lathrop and her sister Gertrude Lathrop, a sculptor of animals, lived together and had a studio in their backyard on South Allen Street in Albany. The sisters had a large assortment of pets that served as models for their works. Among them were flying squirrels that raised their families in a big outdoor cage. In this image Pixie, a flying squirrel, is able to glide from tree to tree because she has a furry, parachute-like membrane that stretches from wrist to ankle.

The Albany Institute thanks leading sponsor Omni Development Company, Inc. for their support of Winter Amusements.