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 improved markedly during his twenty year career of executing works with similar subjects. Hidley's paintings found in private and public collections and in the art and antiques market are often unattributed due to the common and incorrect perception that his work consists merely of townscapes.
Now for the first time, the exhibition, Joseph Hidley: Folk Artist from Rensselaer County, will be devoted solely to this little understood folk artist, and will bring together works from public collections, including the Fenimore Art Museum, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, and the Rensselaer County Historical Society, along with works from numerous private collections. When viewed together, the paintings will offer viewers a window onto the life and world of this regional artist. A catalogue will accompany the exhibition.