SALEM, N.Y.--Amid the boxes and family memorabilia at the top of the narrow back stairs of his Cambridge NY home, gallery owner Sue Clary was delighted to discover a treasure trove in the attic of her friend, highly respected artist George Van Hook. Now known mostly for his plein air oil paintings that celebrate nature, Van Hook's early works reveal places and subjects and techniques that preceded his present immersion in the rural landscape.

"The Attic Collection" is now on display at McCartee's Barn Fine Arts Gallery in Salem, where Sue and Bill Clary will host an artists' reception on May 23.

Born in Bucks County, Penn., Van Hook spent many summers in mid-coastal Maine, where he gained an early appreciation for both art and landscape. His desire to paint led him to Paris; during the early morning hours, he was often able to enter the Louvre to copy the masters and be inspired by the classics. He and his wife would later move to California, and the paintings capturing local California scenes include one found in the attic -- an early award-winner. One of his 1979 paintings, titled "Old Town," marked the unintended broadening of his horizons. Van Hook and his peers were waiting for a figure model who failed to show up, so they decided to just go out and paint.

"It was windy," he recounted, "So I ducked into an alley. The result is an arresting painting that captures the light of coastal California and where a truck is the focal point.


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The Attic Collection includes still lifes that depict the intricacy of silken fabric, the coloring of pears, the sheen of light reflected on a pitcher. "It's impossible to think that these stunning paintings were stashed up in an attic!" marvels Sue Clary as she contemplates the artist's evolution and the beauty of the work. "I am so pleased that we are bringing them into the light of day once again!" from 6-8 p.m.

McCartee's Barn Fine Art and Antiques: 23 East Broadway, Salem, N.Y. The Attic Collection: George Van Hook; artist reception May 23 6-8 p.m.. Visit McCartee's Barn on Facebook.