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Frederic Edwin Church Gallery     Prints.     Full biography.
Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900)
Frederic Edwin Church was born in Hartford, Connecticut. He was a central figure in the Hudson River School of American landscape painters. In 1870 he began construction of a personal and eclectic castle with magnificent views of the Hudson River and the Catskills that is now a New York State historic site open to the public.
Twilight in the Wilderness
Heart of the Andes


Twilight in the Wilderness, 1860

Oil on canvas
Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund 1965.233
ŠThe Cleveland Museum of Art
Location: Gallery 230

Although this is a convincing landscape, it does not depict a specific place. Church created it by combining several different sketches made in Maine and New York. The dramatic light electrifying the entire composition is based on sunsets he witnessed from the window of his New York City studio.

Perhaps the artist intended twilight to suggest the end of a cosmic cycle---a meaning that coincides with the feeling that the Civil Was (imminent in 1860 when this picture was made) would change American civilization forever. The panoramic splendor created by brilliant clouds floating above a tranquil landscape also suggests the divine authority of "manifest destiny," the idea that Americans of European stock had a right to the continent. Seen by large numbers of Americans in a touring exhibition organized by Church himself, this picture was marketed as essentially "American"---a comforting, patriotic image of the American wilderness.
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