The History of the
Hudson Valley Art Association
By Joan Rudman
Anna Hyatt Huntington, Torchbearer
Steeped in the history of the Hudson River School of Painting, a small group of local artists came together in the Victorian drawing room-studio of the late Jasper Cropsey at “Ever Rest” in 1928. As they continued meeting at each other’s studios, their shared dreams and plans gradually evolved. The first exhibition by artists of the Lower Hudson Valley was arranged and sponsored by the Hudson River Country Day School in 1928. Its success provided the foundation for the Hudson Valley Art Association, which held a second successful exhibition in the following year.
Early exhibitions were held at private clubs as benefits by 1934 through the support of Mayor and Mrs. Isabel Steinschneider, Cropsey’s granddaughter. The open HVAA exhibitions were held annually at Westchester Country Center in White Plains, New York. One of the earliest catalogs – 1931 – listed 76 painters and 12 sculptors. Rent was free of charge.
The Club was incorporated on April 1934, to promote the sale of work by the membership. By 1954, an amendment changed the purpose of HVAA to a commitment to charitable and educational functions, including art exhibitions free of charge to the public, with demonstrations by leading artists. Commissions on sales were used to fund art scholarships.
Early accounts report that in 1935 the constitution was reorganized and dues were reduced to $1. That year, the exhibition was held at the Westchester Country Center. Resurgence in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s engendered a golden era for HVAA. Anna Hyatt Huntington was working on her latest torchbearers at the age of 83. (It became our cover motif when graphic artist Fred Stadelman first used it in 1982.) Pietro Montano designed our coveted Gold Medal, which was first awarded in 1952; 1956 was the first mention of an Artist in Special Tribute – Anna Hyatt Huntington was presented a medal and scroll at the Annual Exhibition at the age of 90.
HVAA celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 1970 by honoring Donald DeLue of New Jersey. He created “The Rocket Tower” for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. Also honored was Rosetta Bohnert of Hastings-on-Hudson, who as a President during the war years is credited with urging the club to find a permanent residence. Her home, Oak ledge, became the gracious meeting place and the permanent address for many years.
Recognition of service was also presented to Barbara Newington (a sculpture member) from Greenwich for her generous support throughout the years of HVAA history. This vital, energetic group evolved from a local club expanding from New York City to Albany, then into a tri-state (New Jersey, New York and Connecticut) Society and on into a national organization.
In keeping with its heritage, HVAA was highly honored when the Newington-Cropsey Foundation invited the Association to exhibit at the Foundation’s Gallery. HVAA was then the only art society privileged to exhibit at the gallery. It is most fitting that a second Cropsey descendant, great granddaughter Mrs. John C. Newington, realized our dream: re-opening the HVAA Annual Exhibition on May 29, 1994. The Hudson Valley Art Association enjoyed 11 years exhibiting the annual open exhibition in the Galleries of the Newington-Cropsey Foundation, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. Recent HVAA exhibitions have been at the Grand Gallery and Gregg Gallery of the National Arts Club, New York City. The Lyme Art Association in Old Lyme, Connecticut, the Ridgewood Art Institute of Ridgewood, New Jersey, and the Salmagundi Club Gallery.