4th of July Art: Twilight In The Wilderness by Frederic Edwin Church (1860)

Church was one of the central members of the Hudson River School of 19th century American landscape painters.

We have a beautiful country, don’t we? Church is especially good at capturing the seemingly endless multitude of colors that turn up in those single magical moments of nature when you look at something like the sky or trees or a sunset and suddenly feel a true sense of awe. He does that here in the fiery clouds of the sunset as well as the low light and glow along the greenery, river and mountains in what we can assume is a brighter western distance.

Church was popular and successful during his lifetime, traveling all over the world painting other locales, but always returning to beautiful vistas of upstate New York and the lure of the west beyond.

I like this other one a lot for the colors as well: “The Icebergs” from 1861.

The combo of the eerie green glow with the gray-browns of the water and sky off the whites in the bergs is just plain gorgeous (at least from my safe dry perch and not from the deck of the Titanic). That battered old ship’s mast seems to be pointing at the color-matching rock? or berg? across the way like a dying victim pointing out their murderer. Less a survey of the aftermath of disaster like Friedrich’s Sea of Ice and more a view of the scale of awesome nature versus that small mast of humanity. Nature’ll get ya every time, I guess. Edward Smith would certainly agree.

Church seems really interested in the ways in which the colors and lights reflect off the bergs and the snow, yet he never explored the Impressionist styles that overtook his school of art later in his life. I’ve always found that curious, especially when I look at a work like this one.

Happy 4th! Even in our overly-modern 21st century times, the land (and even the icebergs) are still breathtaking to look at.

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