Tuesday, March 9, 2010

MOUNTAIN LANDSCAPE



From museumsyndicate.com
Frederic Edwin Church was a central figure in the Hudson River School of American landscape painting. Born into a wealthy Connecticut family who could afford to indulge their son’s interest in art, Church began his training and career at an early age. When he was eighteen years old he became the pupil of artist Thomas Cole. By 1848 he sold his first major work and began working professionally full time. Though he taught painting to a number of students (his first was the artist William James Stillman) during his lifetime, Church was most interested in travel to domestic and exotic locales to derive inspiration for his work.
Early in his career he would travel in New York, often by foot, from spring to autumn, sketching and taking notes as he went, and then return by winter to paint and then sell his work.
During the 1850s he traveled to South America, at the expense of Cyrus West Field. The businessman hired Church to capture the beauty and potential of South America in order to lure other businessmen to invest in Field’s ventures there. Church remained in South America for two years.
(Biography Center)


Tequendama Falls, near Bogota, New Granada
Oil on canvas
Cincinnati Art Museum (Cincinnati, Ohio, USA)
From ARC


Scene among the Andes
Oil on canvas
1854
National Academy of Design (United States)
From ARC


The Andes of Ecuador
Oil on canvas
Public collection
FRom ARC


The Andes of Ecuador
Oil on canvas
Reynolda House Museum of American Art
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA
From ARC


Mountains of Ecuador
Oil on canvas
Wadsworth Atheneum (Hartford, Connecticut, USA)
From ARC


The Magdalena River, Equador
Oil on canvas mounted on mason
Public collection
From ARC


Cotopaxi
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Museum purchase with funds
provided by the Hogg Brothers Collection
gift of Miss Ima Hogg, by exchange
From Antiques & Fine Art


Cotopaxi
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Detroit Institute of Arts
Founders Society Purchase
Photograph © The Detroit Institute of Arts
From Antiques & Fine Art


South American Landscape
Oil on canvas
Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection (Madrid, Spain)
From USA


Huge in its pictorial implications, the painting is nonetheless modest in size. South American landscape (above) is one of the ‘prototype’ South American subjects the thirty-year-old Church composed before embarking on his magisterial Heart of the Andes 1859, which lifted him to first place among American artists.
In South American landscape Church responds to the renowned geographer Alexander Humboldt who identified the Andes as best portraying the separate ecologies that together made the global geography. Humboldt’s theory stemmed from an expedition to South America from 1799–1804, when he and his companions travelled from tropical jungle at sea level to mountains with permanent snow. Charles Darwin, travelling to South America thirty years later – with Humboldt’s writings in hand – found evidence that a parallel to Humboldt’s adaptive ecologies existed in biology. Church, visiting Colombia and Ecuador in 1853, deliberately set out to capture in art Humboldt’s geography of the cosmos.
Looking at the painting, it soon becomes apparent that this is not a landscape taken from one place. Rather, it is an assemblage of unlikely points of view which combine to overwhelming effect. Judged by photographic realism, the scene is frankly impossible; yet it is precisely because the painting lacks a governing perspective that the artist is able to suggest a scale that is measureless. Church’s concept is therefore unlike the panoramic landscapes by von GuĂ©rard, Bierstadt and Daubigny, which show the scope of a scene from a single vantage point.
Church painted for an audience whose aesthetic embraced the idea that the path to inspiration was through education. Within this approach, South American landscape expresses two types of ‘truth’. One is the truth of inspired imagination; another is the minutiae of description. Knowledgeable viewers in the mid-nineteenth century used opera glasses to study the details incorporated into the picture from Church’s many field drawings. Failing a handy magnifying glass, we still view the image as a composite of separate parts, each with its own scale and perspective.
Multiple possibilities offer themselves. Following the path of light from a bridge and waterfall gleaming in the chasm on the left, the eye is led to the peak of a mountain. The dark, sheer rugged country between those signs of human habitation conveys a subliminal message that the eye may travel where a human body cannot. Another kind of separation is implied on the other side, where a figure strolls towards us along a sun-striped path. A giant in comparison to the trees flanking the path, the figure is likewise strangely dissociated from the scene by a nonchalant disregard for what it portends. Behind is a tumescent mountain capped with snow, hazed and ruddy-coloured below, where it rises from a labyrinth of impassable mountains and bottomless clefts. This scene cannot conform to practicable travel, even tourism to the exotic: it is visionary.
The urgency of Church’s vision of natural ecology is relevant again in our time. The canvas suggests vast natural rhythms of an ongoing natural evolution on a scale that stretches human faith and imagination. Disjunctive landscape forms and abrupt conjunctions of tones and colours enforce incredible combinations, whereby a tropical palm is cheek-by-cheek with eternal snow. The idea of order seems interchangeable with cosmic disorder.
(Mary Eagle at TURNER TO MONET, THE TRIUMPH OF LANDSCAPE)


The Aegean Sea
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Bequest of Mrs. William H. Osborn, 1902
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
From From Antiques & Fine Art


Sunrise in Syria
Oil on canvas
Public collection
From ARC


The Arabian Desert
Oil on canvas
Public collection
From ARC


Church showed his paintings at the annual exhibitions of the National Academy of Design and the American Art Union, alongside Thomas Cole, Asher Brown Durand, John F. Kensett, and Jasper F. Cropsey. Critics and collectors appreciated the new art of landscape on display, and its progenitors came to be called the Hudson River School. In 1860 Church bought a farm in Hudson, New York and married Isabel Carnes. Both Church's first son and daughter died in March, 1863 of diphtheria, but he and his wife started a new family with the birth of Frederic junior in 1865. When he and his wife had a family of four children, they began to travel together. In 1867 they visited Europe and the Middle East, allowing Church to return to painting larger works.
(Extracted from Wikipedia)


The Ruins at Sunion, Greece
Oil on board
Public collection
From ARC


The Parthenon
Oil on paper mounted on canvas
Private Collection
From Antiques & Fine Art


The Parthenon
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Bequest of Maria De Witt Jesup
from the collection of her husband, Morris K. Jesup
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art


The Parthenon
From wallyg's photostream at flickr


Church visited Greece in 1869 and spent several weeks in Athens. There, he painted numerous studies and oil sketches of the ruins of the Parthenon (above) that later served as the basis for this work. Although he intended to paint a large canvas of the Parthenon while still in Greece, it was not until 1871 that a commission from the financier and philanthropist Morris K. Jesup permitted Church to begin this large canvas. By February of that year, he was already at work on "a big Parthenon". By May, he had apparently finished the painting and wrote of his concern for its proper lighting in Jesup's home. The picture was first exhibited in New York at Goupil's Gallery in 1872 where it was highly acclaimed. It appeared subsequently in many major exhibitions, including the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878.
(Flickr)
Before leaving for Europe and the Middle East, Church purchased the eighteen acres (73,000 m²) on the hilltop above his Hudson farm—land he had long wanted because of its magnificent views of the Hudson River and the Catskills. In 1870 he began the construction of Olana on that site. This highly personal and eclectic castle incorporated many of the design ideas that he had acquired in the Middle East. Olana, now owned by the nonprofit Olana Partnership and administered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is a New York State historic site open to the public. While Church continued to paint monumental landscapes at Olana, he also enjoyed painting small, spontaneous sketches of clouds and sunsets from his hilltop home.
(Extracted from Wikipedia)


Scene on the Catskill Creek, New York
Oil on canvas
Washington County Museum of Fine Arts (USA)
From USA


Today, furnished as it was during Church's lifetime, Olana offers visitors a glimpse of the lifestyle of a rich and famous 19th-century artist. It is not, however, the best place to appreciate Church's paintings: most of Olana's holdings of works by him and others are in storage, and what is on display is underlighted and must compete with a profusion of decorative art, furniture and collections of curiosities.
So a well-selected exhibition of mostly small paintings from Olana now at the National Academy Museum affords a welcome opportunity for close and undistracted study of what Church was extraordinarily good at: small landscape studies and sketches. "Treasures From Olana: Landscapes by Frederic Edwin Church" was organized by Kevin J. Avery, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The earliest work is a preternaturally lucid picture of a glassy pond in rural Connecticut that Church made when he was a teenage student of Thomas Cole, the Hudson River School founder. The latest, dated 1891, by which time arthritis had severely curtailed Church's painting, is an imagined view into a primordial Mexican jungle.
(KEN JOHNSON at The New York Times)


Niagara Falls
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Corcoran Gallery of Art
Washington, D.C.
From Antiques & Fine Art


Niagara Falls, from the American Side
Oil on canvas
Private collection
From ARC


Some of the paintings relate to well-known major works. There is a detailed study for "The Heart of the Andes" (1859), the great painting of Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador, now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And a study for "Niagara Falls" (1860), in the collection of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, is remarkable for its unusual horizontal format: more than three feet long but just under one foot high, it takes in the sweeping curve of green water as it plunges over the edge into the misty abyss.
(KEN JOHNSON at The New York Times)


Twilight Mount Desert Island, Maine
Oil on canvas
Washington University Gallery of Art
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
From ARC


Twilight, 'Short arbiter 'twixt day and night'
Oil on canvas
Newark Museum (United States)
From ARC


Twilight in the Wilderness
Oil on canvas
Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, Ohio, USA)
From ARC


Striking for its supernatural color is a study for "Twilight in the Wilderness" (above), the landscape with a lurid sunset of streaky, smoldering red clouds over bright green sky, that is owned by the Cleveland Museum of Art. The painting from Olana measures just about 8 by 12 inches, but its combination of sensuous painting, neon-bright color and dark, gloomy wilderness is disproportionately thrilling. Whether associated with famous big paintings or not, all the works in the exhibition have in common Church's amazingly deft way of evoking light, space, topography and botanical and geological detail. Up close, the brushwork is like fine old handwriting: delicate, lively and sensuous. Step back, and the paint resolves into an almost photographic view of a piece of the natural world.
(KEN JOHNSON at The New York Times)


View from Olana in the Snow
Oil on paper mounted on canvas
Washington University Gallery of Art
St. Louis, Missouri, USA
From ARC


Winter Scene, Olana
Oil on paper
Olana State Historical Site (USA)
From ARC


The painting of a snowy Hudson Valley viewed from Olana (above) is so much like a sunny day in January that it could be mistaken for a Monet. The immediacy of the small paintings makes them more readily appealing to 21st-century viewers than the big finished paintings, which, however fascinating, have a creaky, overproduced theatricality and a ponderous symbolic import.
Paintings by Church and other artists of the Hudson River School have been seen as representing a pre-Darwinian view of a divinely organized world, where everything from the giant mountains in the distance to the little wildflowers in the foreground had its place. Like most intellectuals of his day, Church believed in intelligent design.
When working on small pictures, whether views of autumnal hills in Vermont, mountains in Jamaica or the Parthenon in Greece, Church set aside his larger metaphysical motivations and painted with what seems an effortlessly skillful spontaneity. The small paintings have an airy life that makes the big pictures seem embalmed.
(KEN JOHNSON at The New York Times)


Icebergs and Wreck in Sunset
Oil on paperboard mounted on canvas
Private Collection
From Antiques & Fine Art


The Icebergs
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art
Anonymous gift
From Antiques & Fine Art


brettvanort wrote at brettvanort.wordpress.com:
"When I was young, my mother would volunteer at the Dallas Museum of Art sometimes. I went there a few times a year, and every time I would always stand in front of this painting by Church (above). What amazed me about the painting was the sheer scale of it. As a small kid it dwarfed me. I looked at it and it took up my whole field of view, the dimensions are approximately 1.6 meters by 2.8 meters. I can almost remember being scared while looking at it.
I remember thinking to myself, and I might have asked my mom, “What has happened to all the people that were on the ship?” I could only think that all that were on board were doomed.
Clearly there had been a shipwreck. The mast in the foreground spoke of that. I didn’t know anything about the sublime at the time. I didn’t think about how the beauty and serenity of the light offset the broken mast and doom that had possibly just occurred. I just thought about the people on board that ship.
When I was a teenager I remember getting a postcard of it and placing it near my desk. I think it remained there through college while I was an undergraduate.
And this year I wrote about the painting, briefly, but read extensively about how Church went about making the paintings. He took a boat out towards Newfoundland and set out to try and paint Icebergs. At that time in the Hudson Valley School of painting, the pupils and disciples of Thomas Cole trekked to the ends of the earth with their paints and canvases. They tried to bring back the extremes of nature to the masses in the cities as they increasingly became entrenched in their daily grind of making the industrial revolution come to life.
Church felt too detached from the icebergs on board his schooner and opted to row in a dingy ONTO THE ICEBERGS! There he could set up and paint ON THE ICEBERGS! In reading that I thought he had the dedication or the foolishness necessary to make his work the best that he could. We all should try and follow that lead, right?"


New England Landscape with Ruined Chimney
Oil on panel
Private collection
From Antiques & Fine Art


By the time Church died in 1900, he had been all but forgotten, and while The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York mounted a small show of his paintings less than two months after his death, Church's great pictures were to go unappreciated for many decades. Church's reputation was revived in the 1960s, first by the general appreciation of mid-nineteenth century American painting that resulted from the formation and publication of the M. and M. Karolik collection of American paintings by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and, more specifically, through the efforts of the late art historian David C. Huntington, who completed his dissertation on Church at Yale University in 1966 and subsequently became instrumental in the renovation of Olana, now a center for Church study and scholarship. At that time, Church was esteemed primarily for Niagara and his South American landscapes of the later 1850s and early '60s. More recently, recognition has been awarded to the North American landscapes, both those painted immediately following his study with Cole, such as New England Landscape with Ruined Chimney, painted in 1846, which repeats his teacher's concern for the passage of time and even adopts the oval format of a number of Cole's domestic scenes of the 1840s, and more mature works of the early 1850s.
(Antiques & Fine Art)


No comments: