HUDSON, N.Y. — Artist Frederic Edwin Church built Olana, his grandiose, Persian-inspired villa, atop a hill on 250 acres in the Hudson Valley so he could be close to the natural beauty that inspired him. When not traveling the world, he could look out the windows to see the lush landscapes of the Hudson River, the Catskill Mountains and trees stretching for miles — and paint them just as he saw them.

HUDSON, N.Y. — Artist Frederic Edwin Church built Olana, his grandiose, Persian-inspired villa, atop a hill on 250 acres in the Hudson Valley so he could be close to the natural beauty that inspired him. When not traveling the world, he could look out the windows to see the lush landscapes of the Hudson River, the Catskill Mountains and trees stretching for miles — and paint them just as he saw them.

Now, more than a century later, a new gallery at the Olana State Historic Site allows visitors to see those same vistas and many of the works of art created from them.

The Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery, on the second floor of the main house, was unveiled in May in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage up the river that carries his name. The gallery's first exhibit, "Glories of the Hudson: Frederic Edwin Church's Views from Olana," opens this month and continues through October. Taken mainly from Olana's own collection, it highlights Church's sketches of the river from his property and includes works never seen by the public.

Church often is considered one of America's most important artists and a key figure in the influential Hudson River School, a loose association of painters who worked in a similar style, focusing on landscapes of the Hudson Valley, the Catskill Mountains, the Adirondack Mountains and New Hampshire's White Mountains between the 1830s and the 1870s. The artists were colleagues, friends and supporters who studied together and traveled throughout New York and New England, and occasionally Europe and the Middle East.

Most of the sketches are done in oil on paper and reflect what co-curators Valerie Balint and Evelyn Trebilcock call his "quintessential views" of the river, many of which look south. From the window, those views contained within the sketches and paintings allow the exhibit to take on somewhat of a multidimensional quality.

Lilacs abound, and leafy trees dot the landscape — mainly birch, oak, ash and black cherry. The Catskill Mountains loom in the distance, past rolling green hills and more trees. Church's efforts to design perfect views remain — miles of planned roads around the property were carefully laid out so vistas would open up as the roads rose, fell and turn. The property's outbuildings were designed to be screened from sight, leaving little to mar the scenes Church worshipped.

Many of the paintings in this exhibit focus on sunsets, including "Summer Sunset from Olana," an oil on board that shows the aftermath of a late-day thunderstorm, haziness contrasted by the brilliance of the reds, oranges and yellows of the setting summer sun. A photograph taken in 1898 by Church's son Louis also shows a sunset view, with the sun breaking through the clouds over the Catskill Mountains.

Maintaining the site's original, unaltered beauty has been the result of years of work by the Olana Partnership, the nonprofit arm of the property. This has included vehement opposition to local development, including a proposed cement plant that would have included a 400-foot smokestack, skyscraper-sized buildings and round-the-clock mining and blasting.

The partnership spent 18 years working to get the overhead electrical wires running throughout Olana put underground. Last year, the last utility pole was removed from the property, making the views seen today at Olana even closer to what Church saw.

Church would not have seen the Rip Van Winkle Bridge — a suspended deck truss bridge built in 1935 to connect Greene and Columbia counties. A few factories can be seen far off in the distance with a scattering of houses mixed in. New-growth trees have been planted deliberately to hide as much industrial development as possible, and a full horticultural restoration is in the works.

Despite the small changes, the views remain astoundingly close to their roots. Seasons and shifts in daylight still provide the natural variables that so influenced Church's work. The artist once wrote, "I can make more and better landscapes in this way than by tampering with canvas and paint in the studio."

To fully capture the natural landscapes, Church designed the windows of his home to frame the views outside, even going so far as to enhance many of them with elaborate, decorative borders — mimicking the frame around a painting. The display is also unique in the way the art is incorporated into the home. There are no stark, white walls with paintings hung solemnly in the center. Rather, the house has been maintained and restored to reflect what it would have looked like when Church and his family lived there, and the intricate borders on each wall have been repainted using the same stencils Church himself designed.

Church began building his Columbia County estate in 1860, near where he'd painted and studied with mentor Thomas Cole. The house was built to reflect the Moorish architecture Church saw in Middle Eastern cities like Beirut, Jerusalem and Damascus with help from architect Calvert Vaux, best-known for co-designing New York City's Central Park.

Though Church's name is not always familiar today, in his time, he was considered a master who commanded huge crowds at his showings. People would line up to pay 25 cents just to see one of his paintings. His 1859 work, "The Heart of the Andes," sold that year for $10,000, which at the time was the highest price ever paid for an American painting. That painting is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His "Twilight in the Tropics" sold late last month for more than $1.2 million at a New York City fine art auction.

Most of his works were sold during his lifetime and in later years, he had to purchase some of them back for display at Olana — his gem, his own little "center of the world," as he described it.

On the Web: www.olana.org