Frederic Edwin Church USA
5-4-1826 Hartford, USA – 4-7-1900 New York, USABack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Frederic Edwin Church was a central figure in the Hudson River School of American landscape painters, perhaps best known for painting large panoramic landscapes, often depicting mountains, waterfalls, and sunsets, but also sometimes depicting dramatic natural phenomena that he saw during his travels to the Arctic and Central and South America.
The family's wealth allowed Frederic Edwin Church to pursue his interest in art from a very early age. At eighteen years of age, Church became the pupil of Thomas Cole in Catskill, New York after Daniel Wadsworth, a family neighbor and founder of the Wadsworth Athenaeum, introduced the two. In May 1849, Church was elected as the youngest Associate of the National Academy of Design and was promoted to Academician the following year.
He idealizes an uninterrupted nature, highlighted by creating excruciatingly detailed art. The technical skill comes in the form of luminism, a Hudson River School innovation particularly present in Church's works.
Church began his career by painting classic Hudson River School scenes of New York and New England, but by 1850, he had settled in New York. Church’s method consisted of creating paintings in his studio based on sketches created of views in the summer months.
Frederic Edwin Church took two trips to South America, and stayed predominantly in Quito, Ecuador, the first in 1853 and the second in 1857. One trip was financed by businessman Cyrus West Field, who wished to use Church's paintings to lure investors to his South American ventures. When Church returned in 1857 he added to his landscape paintings of the area. It was the Heart of the Andes that won Church fame when it debuted in 1859.
It was finally showed in New York City. Frederic Edwin Church had set up the exhibit like a house, with the painting playing the part of a window looking out over the Andes. He completed the look with Ecuadorian plants from his travels and a frame and curtains which the audience (sitting on benches) looked through to enhance the effect. The painting's frame had drawn curtains fitted to it, creating the illusion of a view out of a window.
The public were charged admission and provided with opera glasses to examine the painting's details. The work was an instant success. Church eventually sold it for $10,000, at that time the highest price ever paid for a work by a living American artist. During the Civil War, Church was inspired to paint "Our Banner in the Sky", from which a lithograph was made and sold to benefit the families of Union soldiers.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City exhibited The Heart of the Andes in its original frame in 1995-96. Americans soon began to consider Frederic Edwin Church the “Michelangelo of Landscape Art” and he became one of the most renowned American artists. In addition, one of Church’s most extraordinary accomplishments was his commercial success. Church’s art was extremely lucrative, he was reported to be worth approximately half-a-million dollars at his death, about $13.5 million today. Americans were enamored with Church’s all-American appeal and brilliant body of work.
He was a founding trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and served with the institution from 1870 to 1887. Enthusiasm for Church's works was rekindled in the late 20th century, when art historians began to consider him one of the foremost American landscape oil painters. Church's long-lost masterpiece, The Icebergs (1861) was rediscovered in 1979.
Art Movement: Hudson River School
Influences: Thomas Cole
Traveled: Ecuador, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Artic, Colombia, Greece