The Mountain a novel
by Raymond J. Steiner

Since the turn of the 19th-century, the course of American art took a major turn from earlier academic principles to radical modernist influences from Europe. The Mountain traces this course through the eyes of its protagonist, Jacob (Jake) Forscher, a self-made painter who tries to wend his way through the maze of new art, new ideas, and a new post-world war that turned mores and values upside down.

The uncertainty of what “art” is — or what it ought to be — dogs Jake throughout the novel. Though a fictional work, The Mountain is set mainly in the burgeoning art colony of Woodstock, New York, and contains historically authentic people and places allowing for the book to relate much local and New York state history of the early 19th century. Hudson River life, (Day Liners, ice harvesting, etc.), the bluestone industry, the building of the Ashokan Reservoir, and especially the growth and development of the Woodstock art colony serve as the setting for the story. Woodstock ‘notables’ such as Birge Harrison, John Carlson, Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead, Hervey White, and others, are included in the book as ‘characters’ with whom Jake interacts and from whom he learns about the world of art.
Opening in New York City with the famed “Armory Show” of 1913, the book ends in Woodstock, New York ten years after the equally famed 1969 Woodstock Festival.

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Additional description and comments

The Mountain tells the story of Jake Forscher and his development from handyman to recognized landscape painter.
The uncertainty of what “art” is — or what it ought to be — dogs Jake throughout the novel. He is progressively introduced to a changing artworld, one that begins (for him) in the traditionalism of the early 19th century and will end with the growing impact of “multi-culturalism”.
Though a fictional work, The Mountain contains historically authentic people and places — all of which allows for the book to relate much local and New York state history of the early 19th century. Hudson River life and activities (Day Liners, ice harvesting, etc.), the bluestone industry, the building of the Ashokan Reservoir and especially the growth and development of the Woodstock art colony flesh out and serve as the setting for the story. Such Woodstock ‘notables’ as Birge Harrison, John Carlson, Hervey White, Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead, Andrew Dasburg, Konrad Cramer, and others, are included in the book as ‘characters’ with whom Jake interacts and from whom he learns about the world of art.

Review: All in the LightReprint from Ulster Publishing, Woodstock Times June 12, 2008
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Like its author, it has a quiet yet quirky presence. It’s utterly local in its plotting, its characters, its overall tone and thematic interests. Yet worthy in all these categories.

We start as its self-taught painter hero Jake Forscher heads back upstate after seeing the 1913 Armory show and follow as he struggles with a lifetime getting his ideas of painting right. We meet a host of other Woodstock painters, and characters, both famous and not. We watch as the local reservoirs get built, witness the subtle shifts in rural life as summer visitors increase, electricity arrives, attitudes change. We bitch and moan as the town shifts to a louder music scene…and then Jake helps start up a new arts publication.

Autobiographical? To a point…the feelings about art and local life are all true to life. But the character’s life spans a different time, before ours. Call it a wished-for life, of sorts.

“It’s all in the light,” characters say to each other, describing what they’re after in their paintings in dialogue at Deannie’s and Duey’s. “Labor is labor.”

One can feel the results of a lifetime’s research here, for good and bad. I’m looking forward to gleaning bits of observed history made living via the magic of fiction here. Yet it’s easy to understand how Steiner’s pulled such a payload of jacket blurbs from local artists already.

This is a book that captures the quiet, quirky pleasures of painters’ lives, of those who move, or stay here because others like them have done so, and others after them will, too.

“Gazing absently up at Overlook he tried to imagine the artists and artisans who made the paintings, the stained glass windows, and the statues at the church. Who were the men who carved the wooden pulpit, the huge stone baptismal font, the marble altar? What were they like? Had they learned their trade here, in America, or had they brought it with them from Europe.” Raymond Steiner writes in The Mountain “What kinship — if any — had he, Jake Forscher, with these men? To all men who made art? And not only to these artists in the past—but also to those of today?”

Good questions, all. And a strong attempt at an answer, herein, by all looks of it.

Comments about The Mountain:

“…The Mountain…is a poetically written yet compelling work about the coming of age of a young, inexperienced artist who relocates from NYC to Woodstock, NY during the early part of the 20th Century. The evolution of his development as a talented artist along with the history of an art community interwoven with a rapidly threatening world is a sensitively written page-turner. Only a serious artist could have written this book with such understanding. I highly recommend it.”
Eleanor Jacobs: Writer, Art Agent

“A compelling portrayal of the struggle to express the creative process that lives within us.”
Alan McKnight: Artist

“As we follow this artist (Jake) through his creative journey, he reveals philosophical questions that resonate within the artist in each of us, making this a deeply, thought-provoking, worthwhile read.” Susan Hope Fogel: Painter                                                                                                                                          
“As each of us has our own ‘mountain’ to climb, so too we follow Jake Forscher as he attempts to reveal his soul to a blank canvas through this wonderful blend of the 20th-Century Woodstock Art Colony and the landscape of the inner artist’s inspiration and aspirations.” —Annie Hoffstatter: Artist

“I loved The Mountain, by Raymond J. Steiner. It so effectively immerses you in the artistic atmosphere of New York City and Woodstock from the early years of the century to the present that you actually begin to believe you’re there, living among the people and places of the novel… He conjures up place and time so completely that you can’t help but be immersed in his characters’ lives and in the places where they live.
Not only is The Mountain
a soaring, deeply moving and intensely detailed picture of how life was lived in those places at those times, but since the principal character is an artist, who continues to grow artistically throughout those years, you gain continually-growing insight into what it means to be an artist, what it means to grow as an artist. As you share his growth by gaining more and more technical knowledge of painting you begin to realize, as he learns to realize, what it really means to be involved in the process of painting a picture.
It’s a story you won’t want to leave, and that you will carry with you for a long time.” Robert Brink: Theatrical Director                                             

“Steiner provides true insight into the psyche of the artist while revealing the day-to-day struggles encountered pursuing the artist ideal.” Mark Hoffstatter: Businessman     

The Mountain had a big impact on me and many months later I still think of various parts of the story. I felt the main character expressed exactly how I feel every time I travel north and get that first glimpse of the Catskills. Not only did I learn about the area in which I live and the history of the art community, but I gleaned various pointers for my own artistic endeavors.” —Holly Post: Painter

“In The Mountain, Steiner has created an enviable character set in a place and time I would love to have lived. His ability as a storyteller rivals his passion for the rich cultural history of the Woodstock artists’ colony.”
Kate McGloughlin
: Artist, Teacher                                                                                                              

The Mountain lifted my thoughts and my heart. I loved following Jake on his quest.”  Jill Silber: Artist                                                                                   
“A beautiful book that captures the mystery of life through the elusiveness and beauty of the ‘Mountain’”  
—Barbara Gill:

The Mountain, by Raymond J. Steiner, is a fictional glimpse into the life of Jake Forscher, an amateur artist, or rather a handyman who dreams of being an artist, while working in the shadows of the many great legends of the Catskill art scene circa 1912, including Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead, Putnam Brinley, and John Carlson.  Steiner, a well-respected art critic and essayist for the Art Times Journal since its inception, as well as a recognized artist in his own right (though in his own words, he is a “writer who likes to paint”), uses familiar scenes and landmarks of and around the town of Woodstock, NY, which include the Byrdcliffe Artist Colony, the Art Students League, and the Rock City Artists Group.  The book is a must have for anyone interested in art, local art history, history of the Catskills, or the honest and ever-witty approach to story telling that is, much like his personality, a trademark of Steiner’s writings”.
Jamie Barthe
l, Owner/Curator Lotus Fine Art

“There are few books that delve into an artist’s inner world in search for truth as honestly as this one. The Mountain is refreshing, inspiring and extremely well written. The historical insight about the Woodstock era was a bonus.”
—Linda Richichi: Artist, Teacher                                                                                 

 The Mountain is a wonderful book giving us much of the history of the Hudson Valley from the beginning of the 19th-Century and beyond. Meanwhile, in an easily readable manner, much information on the evolution of American painting of that era is presented to the reader. Above all, however, The Mountain is a symbol reminding us of the many ‘insurmountable’ problems we encounter along the road of our lives, as we struggle for higher aims.”
Jörg Iwan:
Analytical Chemist (Retired)

“You will be inspired when you read this powerful and insightful novel.”  Anthony Krauss: Sculptor

“Steiner has written a compelling story that will appeal to artists and those who wish to understand artists. His masterful prose draws the reader to The Mountain and makes us care about Jake’s pursuit of his passion to express himself through his art. The juxtaposition of Jake’s inner struggle with the immense physicality of ‘The Mountain’ make for an excellent read.” Heidi Robertson: Financial Advisor

“R.J. Steiner has with words, painted a colorful story of an artist in this entertaining and highly enjoyable novel. A great read.” Everett Raymond Kinstler: Artist

“In The Mountain, a profound work of historical fiction, Ray Steiner paints a beautiful landscape of a young man’s journey from his working class roots in Brooklyn to Woodstock, New York. While coming to terms with his own self-doubts, Jake Forscher’s inner struggles as an artist and craftsman are set within the magnificent backdrop of Overlook Mountain and the impassioned dialogues of the visionaries who came together to create the famed artist’s colony in the early 20th-Century.” Ginger Lee Hendler: Artist, Teacher

“The Mountain is a masterful telling of the passionate and lifelong spiritual quest of a divinely-inspired artist.”
—Cheryl Post:

“What a joy to learn so much about art and a place called ‘Woodstock’ from an educator, artist and skilled story-teller.” Elsie Teich: Teacher (Retired)

Raymond Steiner has created a character that makes us feel and think like an artist. Jake asks all the important questions about art in a story woven with a bit of historical fact that captures your heart.”
Kathleen Arffmann
, Executive Director Salmagundi Club, NYC