Frederic Edwin Church, (born May 4, 1826, Hartford, Connecticut,
U.S. – died April 7, 1900, near New York, New York), was an
American Romantic landscape painter who was one of the most prominent
members of the Hudson River school.
Church studied with the painter Thomas Cole at his home in Catskill,
New York, and they remained friends throughout their lives. From the
beginning Church sought for his subjects marvels of nature such as
Niagara Falls, volcanoes in eruption, and icebergs. He was greatly
influenced by the writings of Alexander von Humboldt, the German
naturalist and in 1853, while he was in Ecuador, stayed in a house
where Humboldt had lived. Church portrayed the beauties of the Andes
Mountains and tropical forests with great skill. Through his use of
light and colour and his depiction of natural phenomena such as
rainbows, mist, and sunsets, he created renderings that were realistic
and emotionally affecting. His combined interests in exotic locales
and natural science caused Church, on occasion, to approach a subject
systematically. For example, he painted the Ecuadoran volcano Cotopaxi
over the course of several years, in several states of eruption.
In 1849 Church was made a member of the National Academy of Design.
Among his major works are Andes of Ecuador (1855), Niagara (1857),
and Cotopaxi (1862). In his lifetime, Church received great praise
for his work and sold his paintings for high prices. He traveled widely
in Europe and the Middle East, but after 1877 he was compelled to
abandon painting because of crippling rheumatism in his hands. He died
at Olana, his house on the Hudson River, which is now a museum.
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 painters. Church's long-lost masterpiece, Icebergs (1861),
was rediscovered in 1979.