Palenville is in the southwest part of the Town of Catskill, located at the junction of Routes 23A and 32A. It lies at the foot of Kaaterskill Clove, at the base of the Catskill Mountains. Kaaterskill Creek runs through the town, and was spanned by a swinging footbridge, destroyed during Tropical Storm Irene. The creek provides a number of swimming holes in the summer months, and the Long Path runs through the town.
Palenville was an important center of the Hudson River school of the 19th century. Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, and other notable painters stayed and worked in Palenville during the height of the movement. The famous painting Kindred Spirits depicts Cole and William Cullen Bryant near Kaaterskill Falls, just uphill from the town. The famous Catskill Mountain House was also located just outside Palenville. Palenville is the fictional home of Rip van Winkle.
Palenville historically was described as the "First Art Colony in America" Dr. Roland Van Zandt, in The Catskill Mountain House. It is located at the base of the Catskill Mountains at the entrance of the Kaaterskill Clove. The area is home to many waterfalls and natural motifs depicted by Hudson River School artists in the 19th-century.
With the coming of the twentieth century, the large boarding houses of the mountain top started to close, but Palenville and the surroundings was often visited by city dwellers. Palenville was one of the Catskill's vacation resorts, hosting nearly two dozen small and medium sized boarding houses and many hotels at the turn of the century. Palenville, the Kaaterskill Creek and the Kaaterskill Clove have been a subject for several painters.
Late in the 20th century an art gallery opened on Main Street Palenville and The Pine Orchard Summer Festival was founded. Opening in 1980 and hosting its first national juried show in 1981, the privately owned and funded Terrance Gallery exhibited more than 1200 American artists, in a call to revisit the historic gathering place of the 19th-century painters. The Pine Orchard located on along the Manorville road through fund raising and grants refurbished a chapel into a theater and hosted opera, players, musicians, writers and artists. Shakespeare and the Circus arts were presented there by the Bond Street Theater group.
The Terrance Gallery and the Pine Orchard festivals have closed but the Palenville Library, the Woodbine Inn are still open.
Other noted artists who frequented Palenville and the Clove included Winslow Homer, Asher B. Durand, Thomas Addison Richards, John Frederick Kensett and Sanford R. Gifford. Landscape painters of the 20th century included Albert Handel, Barry Hopkins, Athena Billias, Michelle Moran and Patti Ferrara. George H. Hall, who was a 'genre' painter, took up residence in Palenville towards the end of the 19th century; and Terrance J. DePietro, an abstract painter, who was early on influenced by the Hudson River School, maintained residence and a studio from the later part of the 20th century into the 21st. He brought artists from Quebec, Canada, including Nicole Lemelin and Remi LaRoche.