Sunday, April 17, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Church

Today for our 40 days of artists, I wanted to cover the first of two American artists (the latter of which will come later this week).  Frederic Edwin Church is also a shift not only because he is American, but because he is the only exclusive landscape artist that I'm covering during the 40 days.
Church was born in 1825 in Hartford, Connecticut.  He was one of the main figures in what is known as the Hudson River school of artists.  It's chief figure was Thomas Cole, and these were a group of American landscape artists that were influenced by the Romanticism in art of the day.  Their objective was to paint landscapes in the same romanticized and dramatic beauty as the portrait artists did during the time, such as Bouguereau.  Church became a student of Thomas Cole when he was 18 years old.
By the late 1840s, Church had become a well-established landscape painter, settling in New York and taking his first student, William James Stillman.  Church loved to travel all over the world, and his paintings document his travels, and the beautiful scenery became the object of his success.  One of the first places he traveled to was South America, where he stayed for four years and immersed himself in the landscape.  After returning to the U.S., Church painted Heart of the Andes, and unveiled it to a crowd in New York in 1859.  This large painting, approximately 5x10 ft., was Church's first major success, and he managed to sell it for $10,000.  The painting now resides at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Later on in the 1860s, Church married and started a family.  It was then that they began to travel to other places together, including places in Europe and the Middle East.  He would go on to paint more large-scale works inspired from his travels in these places.  One in particular that stands out especially for myself can be seen at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City.  Not only because it is located in my hometown, but because it is a painting that depicts a place I have actually been blessed to see for myself.  The painting is Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.  Standing before this large painting, one can easily point out specific details of buildings that are in the painting such as the Dome of the Rock and the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Church was very careful to include these details in his painting, and it really is as if you are standing on the Mount of Olives and seeing the panorama of the city of Jerusalem.
In the 1870s, Church was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis, and eventually had to paint left-handed as a result.  Church died in 1900, but has certainly earned his reputation of not only one of the greatest landscape painters, but as one of the greatest American painters of all time.

Frederic Church
Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives
oil on canvas
137 x 213 cm.

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