Hudson River Valley | LG Building | Hudson River School paintings

Historic Views of the Palisades Threatened by Modern Construction

Chelsea DeLay | June 21st, 2013 | Posted in News

Many of my friends that work in the corporate world often joke about how a sign of “making it” at work is being rewarded with a corner cubicle, and that a desk with a window view is considered to be prime office real estate.  I have to shake my head and laugh at their witticisms because this “cubicle with a view” plight is an issue that I will probably never encounter; one tradeoff familiar to many who work closely with paintings is our willingness to sacrifice our window views in order to preserve the condition of the beautiful canvases that surround us on a daily basis.  Every day at work, I feast my eyes on breathtaking landscapes and coastal scenes that far surpass any monotonous view offered by an office window.

For the past several months, George Inness’s Palisades on the Hudson has been hanging directly across from my desk—offering me an unobstructed view of one of the most iconic vistas seen in the Hudson River Valley.  I often find my gaze drawn to this work, lured away from my computer screen by the cool, enigmatic palette and brushwork characteristic of any masterpiece created by Inness. He made it all-to-easy to forget the fact that I have never actually been to the Palisades; the alternate reality Inness skillfully painted transports me out of the gallery and into the untamed wilderness of the Hudson River Valley.  Countless 19th– and 20th-century American landscape painters drew inspiration from vantage points throughout the Palisades, but recent news reports have announced that a modern enterprise now threatens this timeless view.

The Palisades were designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1983, but looming over the vista’s natural beauty is the impending construction of a new corporate headquarters for LG Electronics.  LG announced plans for the structure to be erected in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, and the building’s design calls for an 8-story building that will without a doubt obstruct views of the picturesque landscape. Opposition to the proposed layout was immediate: four former New Jersey governors, Larry Rockefeller, and Englewood Cliff residents are all fighting for the LG headquarters to be redesigned in order to preserve the historic panorama.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art has also joined the opposing ranks, and is justifiably worried because the building site is almost directly across the Hudson River from the Cloisters. The Met has sent letters urging LG to “reconsider the design and perhaps come up with a plan that doesn’t pierce the treetops on the Palisades.” The most recent show of resistance came in a rare reverse-decision from the Environmental Protection Agency—the organization revoked its involvement in the construction of the LG headquarters, stating that the building’s height would upset  “the natural beauty of the Palisades.”

Preserving the historic landscape that served as inspiration for Hudson RiverSchool painters such as Frederic Edwin Church, Thomas Cole, George Inness, Asher B. Durand, and Jervis McEntee should be absolutely paramount.  The paintings these men created elevated the cultural importance of the Palisades in our nation’s history, and now it is our duty to ensure that the legacy they created—and the view—endures.

George Inness, Palisades on the Hudson, oil on canvas

George Inness (1825–1894), “Palisades on the Hudson,” oil on canvas 20 1/8 x 30 1/8 inches, signed lower right: G. Inness
Available at Questroyal Fine Art, LLC, New York