The Hyde Collection: A Virtual Journey from Russia to the Adirondacks
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Vintage Negative of Lake George from the Ft Wm Henry Hotel French Mountain
Lake George from the Ft Wm Henry Hotel French Mountain
J. S. Wooley /Matt Finley

A Virtual Journey from Russia to the Adirondacks: view the ancient painting techniques employed by Palekh artists of Russia and the early 20th century Adirondack photography of J.S. Wooley, presented by The Hyde Collection.

While Russian Lacquer painters used ancient techniques to create beautiful representations of traditional Russian Folk Art, J.S. Wooley used his camera lens to represent Adirondack beauty and history in the early 20th century.

The Hyde Collection Art Museum and Historic Home located in Glens Falls, New York has an extensive and distinguished collection of art from all around the world. As visitors cannot currently walk through the doors of The Hyde, the public can still experience the history and beauty of contemporary and centuries old art through virtual options.

The Hyde opened its doors to the public in 1952. Now, The Hyde has embraced the idea of virtual displays. Art and history lovers can experience the permanent collection and upcoming exhibitions from home, while awaiting the reopening.

Mark your calendars for two impressive exhibitions that the Hyde has planned for this summer. The first exhibition Images of the People: Russian Lacquer Painting, is currently available online and has been extended into December. This gives all who are interested plenty of time to view, enjoy, and learn about the art that is displayed.

The second exhibition,J.S. Wooley Adirondack Photographer, is in development for August 1, when the Hyde hopes to reopen. However, there is also an online component in the works, so viewers can experience this exhibition whether the Hyde is reopened or not.

Images of the People: Russian Lacquer Painting, tells a visual story of a turbulent moment in Russian history. After the Bolshevik Revolution, Russian icon painters were jobless. These painters were joined together by Soviet Authorities, and collectively used their talents to decorate simple boxes covered with folk art tales and heroic soviet imagery. In the 1990s, a Washington County resident traveled to the USSR and this style of painting caught their eye. The upstate New York resident brought home over thirty works from the Russian Lacquer painters, who had used their talent to overcome the obstacles they faced during and after the revolution.

Jonathan Canning, the Director of Curatorial Affairs at The Hyde stated, “With great technical skill, they employ ancient techniques to create bright, colorful, miniature representations of Russian folk history.”

Canning believes that the exhibition has presented The Hyde and viewers with something special. “The exhibition presents us with something new, an art form we weren’t aware of, but in pleasures that we all share; story-telling, tales of heroes and magic, the wonder of a colorful miniaturized world.”

The J.S. Wooley: Adirondack Photographer exhibition will be paired with Images of the People: Russian Lacquer Painting, within the next couple of months.

J.S. Wooley was the official photographer of Lake George and the Adirondacks from 1908 to 1923. It is within those years that he captured the beloved regions of New York State, leaving a lasting impression over a century later. His photographs are intimate, giving viewers a personal look at what the Upstate New York area had been like during that time period.

Canning states this exhibition draws attention to a local photographer who has been forgotten with time. Wooley was known for blending art and business, making a successful commercial company out of the technology we commonly know as photography.

He certainly had an artistic eye and a certain aesthetic that captured the beauty of the region… As we talk about the creative economy in our region, of retaining and attracting people to live and work here, Wooley is a model of someone who made a career for himself using new technology with the Adirondacks as his base, but the world as his playground”, says Canning.

Although these exhibitions are different in many ways both represent a time long past, while featuring artists who should be remembered for their talents, creative spirits, and love for art.

Jonathan Canning spoke further on The Hyde Collection and the exhibitions virtual visitors can look forward to:

What upcoming exhibitions does the Hyde have planned?
Coronavirus has made planning very difficult. It has scrambled our exhibition calendar. Several exhibitions have been postponed until 2021 or later. At one point, we had hoped to reopen in July, but we are now working towards an August reopening. So, in July, we will be installing two exhibitions, but they will not be available for visitors to see in person until August. Once we reopen, visitors will be able to visit our permanent collection of European and American masterworks in Hyde House and also our collection of modern art in the Feibes & Schmitt Gallery. We will open two temporary exhibitions: Images of the People: Russian Lacquer Painting and J.S. Wooley: Adirondack Photographer. These exhibitions will run into December; much longer than originally planned.

Will the exhibition(s) be virtual?
In August, if the state reopening goes smoothly, the museum will be open to the public (with pre-purchased timed tickets). Images of the People: Russian Lacquer Painting is an exhibition that we started to make available online some time ago. We have highlights from the exhibition on our website and also links to a number of short videos. We realize that even once we have reopened that many members and visitors will want us to continue to provide online content as we have been doing since we closed in mid-March. We are working on creating online content for J.S. Wooley.

The installation of both exhibitions are being rethought and redesigned as we take into consideration physical distancing. Rather than evenly space objects throughout the gallery, we may start to group them with 6ft gaps between groupings.

Of course, we would all like to experience exhibitions in person. How can viewers get the most out of a virtual one?
I have spent a career believing that nothing compares with being in front of a work of art. Of course, I have also spent a lifetime researching art using photographs so it’s not impossible to learn about and enjoy art from images. There can be advantages to touring an exhibition from your armchair. You avoid the physical fatigue of Stendhal syndrome. You don’t feel rushed by other visitors. Museum goers spend less than a minute looking at a work of art. Just as with museum visitors, I would advise virtual visitors to stop and look. Use your zoom-in capability and explore the image. Virtual visitors have the luxury of Google at their fingertips. If a question comes to mind, take the time to explore it. Museum labels can never have all the answers.

Who are the artists and what type of media is to be displayed?
The artists in Images of the People: Russian Lacquer Painting are primarily a collective of artists that formed in the 1990s. At that time, it comprised three generations of artists, some in family groups. They painted lacquer boxes and plaques. We will have a couple of Easter egg forms in the exhibition too. J.S. Wooley was a photographer. Many of the images will be reproductions made from original glass plate negatives. However, we are borrowing some stereoscopic cards and glass slides. I think we will be able to mockup his photographer’s studio.

What is the significance of the art featured in the upcoming exhibition(s)?
J.S. Wooley: Adirondack Photographer draws attention to a local photographer who has largely been forgotten. A local boy, he built a successful commercial company around a new technology: photography. He blended art and business. He certainly had an artistic eye and a certain aesthetic that captured the beauty of the region. He knew who to frame images and to exploit composition and to balance elements in the painting, like foreground details with distant mountain and cloud formations to create a pleasing image that delights the eye. But he also knew what would sell. He recorded the activities of summer visitors and important events like the visit of President Taft and sold these images to participants. He developed a travel tour company and used the photographs he took on those trips to present slide lectures that drummed up new business and made him a popular public speaker. As we talk about the creative economy in our region, of retaining and attracting people to live and work here, Wooley is a model of someone who made a career for himself using new technology with the Adirondacks as his base, but the world as his playground.

Last year, we exhibited the art of Washington County artist Jacob Houston. Colorful and detailed he shared his joyful view of the world. We see that again in the art of Russian lacquer painters from Palekh. With great technical skill, they employ ancient techniques to create bright, colorful, miniature representations of Russian folk history. The exhibition presents us with something new, an art form we weren’t aware of, but pleasures that we all share; storytelling, tales of heroes and magic, the wonder of a colorful miniaturized world.

Additional comments and/or valuable information.
Everyone should monitor our website for information on our reopening, which we now hope will happen in early August. We will not open for as many days as usual and are considering restricting our morning hours for those most at risk of exposure to the virus. We are probably going to go to timed tickets which visitors should buy/reserve online before coming to the museum. We will be restricting the number of visitors in the building at any one time and there will be directed routes through the building to reduce interactions with other visitors.