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Harold Weston and the Adirondack Wilderness:
the Solitude of Nature

August 21 - October 11, 2013

night splendor, painting by harold weston

Harold Weston, Night Splendor, 1968, oil on canvas
Gift of the artist, SLU 69.26

The art of the Adirondacks is part of the American landscape canon illuminating the centrality of nature to the American experience, and few artists were as deeply rooted in the Adirondack wilderness as Harold Weston (1894–1972).  From early childhood at his family’s summer home in St. Huberts and throughout his long and multifaceted career, the Adirondack wilderness was one of his most important subjects and creative catalysts. 

Weston’s abiding passion for the region was ignited when he was a child and nurtured over 70 years.  The artist’s grandfather, Charles Hartshorne, was one of a group to purchase forestland in the High Peaks region in Keene Valley to form the Adirondack Mountain Reserve in 1887.  The Reserve’s purpose, to protect “the forever wild character of this forest land… in a manner appropriate to the enjoyment of [its] wilderness beauty…” remains to this day.

Weston decided in 1920 to devote his life to painting.  He shunned formal training preferring to retreat alone to the mountains and woods of the Adirondacks in the belief that “the techniques of how to paint would work out” in the presence of nature.  He built a one-room studio not far from the Ausable Club and lived there hermit-like for three years, devoting himself entirely to painting.  From his raw expressionism in the 1920s to expressive realism in the 1930s and ‘40s to mystical abstraction in the 1960s, no other artist working in the region has shown a similar exploration of style while remaining constant to his or her subject.  Depicting beloved mountain vistas in the High Peaks, forest interiors, the Upper and Lower Ausable Lakes, brilliant sunsets and fall foliage, winter scenes, and abstract landscapes of the mind, the artworks in the exhibition come from the St. Lawrence University’s permanent collection, the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y., and private lenders.

Caroline Welsh, curator
director emerita of the Adirondack Museum

Special thanks to the Greater Hudson Heritage Network for a grant to help conserve Frost Before Night (1940), one of the paintings in the exhibition from St. Lawrence University's permanent collection.