February 11, 2010

NEARLY WORTH A STATE BORDER VIOLATION:

South American Sublimity: Church's monumental 'Heart of the Andes' (BARRYMORE LAURENCE SCHERER, 2/06/10, WSJ)

For all their powerful visual drama, many of the iconic landscapes of the American painter Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) are relatively small in size and were originally intended for private collections. But one of his greatest paintings is also one of his largest, the monumental "Heart of the Andes," currently on view in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Lehman Wing. Painted in 1859, this canvas (measuring more than 10 feet by 5 feet) embodies Church's large-scale vision of scenic majesty and his overriding belief that God was revealed in the wonders of nature.

Like other members of the Hudson River School, Church was influenced by the idea of the "sublime and picturesque" initially published by the 18th-century Anglo-Irish writer and statesman Edmund Burke. A 1756 Burke essay attempted to identify the differences between that which is beautiful and that which is sublime or great. Beautiful objects, wrote Burke, are "comparatively small," "smooth and polished," "light and delicate." Burke identified sublime or great objects as "vast in their dimensions . . . rugged and negligent"; "the great ought to be dark and gloomy . . . solid, and even massive."

Hudson River School painters ventured beyond the picturesque rolling scenery of the Catskills and New England in search of the sublime. Church set his sights toward South America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 11, 2010 7:24 AM
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