Seneca Hope

The Life and Landscapes of James Hope

by Frank W. Steber

In 1872, landscape painter James Hope moved from Castleton, Vermont to Watkins, N.Y. — a small village on the southern end of Seneca Lake — where he spent the last 20 years of his life capturing the beauties of the glen on canvas. There are few reminders of Hope’s time in Watkins Glen. Hope is best remembered for his large canvases depicting the Antietam battlefield that he painted from sketches made during his service as a Captain in the Vermont Infantry during the Civil War. To bring this artist to life, author Frank Steber imagines Hope’s life from his days in Castleton, to his studio portrait in New York, N.Y. and finally to his life in Watkins Glen.

“Leaving the sanctity of the 'Cathedral', they continued their upward journey in silence until another new vista stopped them. James knew the moment his eyes beheld it that this was Rainbow Falls. A light fall of glistening water fell from another source far above, over-arching the path that hugged the rock wall behind it. Below, the waters joined the larger glen stream which tumbled down through three or four small cataracts into a roily pool, then continued the descent. ... He wondered what had brought him here to this great discovery, and then he knew that he must paint it – he must capture the essence of the natural beauty before him – capture and preserve for all the world to see!”

Author’s Note:

Frank Steber

One day a few years ago I received a phone call from a former student who had an interesting story to tell. Would I be interested in hearing about it from his daughter Jennifer, who had become engrossed in their genealogy, and perhaps write about it in the local weekly paper, for which I was writing a weekly column at the time? -- Well, yes, of course !!

A great aunt had died, leaving her estate to be auctioned off. Jennifer, as a surviving relative, had been notified of the auction. She was amazed to learn that her great aunt's estate included several paintings by an ancestor, James Hope, of whom she had never before heard! She and her mother attended the auction, but were unable to compete in bidding for the art work. However, they did secure a box or two of personal items, including letters, pictures, and newspaper clippings.

Jennifer was generous in sharing this treasure of family memorabilia with me. It soon became clear that the story required more than a newspaper column or two -- it demanded book-length treatment. Thus, Seneca Hope was born -- the story of an artist drawn to the beauties of Seneca Lake and Watkins Glen , where he would paint Nature for the rest of his life! We hope the fictionalized story will please and inform its readers and fill a gap in Jennifer's family history.

paperback, 8.5 x 5.5, 128 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9725571-5-3