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Artist Biography

 Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Frederic Church was raised in the comfort of wealth that provided him the means to develop an early interest in art. In 1844, at the age of eighteen, Church became a student of Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School. The next year, he showed a painting at the National Academy of Design, and by 1848, Church moved to New York City and opened a studio in the Art-Union building. At the age of twenty-two, Church became one of the youngest academicians ever elected at the National Academy of Design. He is today considered to be one of the finest American landscape artists of the nineteenth century.

Between 1848 and 1853, Church traveled widely throughout New York State and New England, turning out many pictures, all of which he sold easily. His early works, large romantic landscapes of the Hudson River and New England scenery, emulate Thomas Cole. By the early 1850s, however, Church had become interested in the aesthetic theories of John Ruskin, and in the scientific writings of the German naturalist-explorer Alexander von Humboldt. He began to take a more scientific, detailed interest in nature, and his work reflects these new concerns. In 1853, Church became the first American artist to explore South America, and when his exotic subjects were exhibited in New York in 1855, they brought him immediate and international fame. He returned to South America in 1857, this time working in Equador. Church’s reputation soared when his monumental Niagara (Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) was exhibited in 1857. After his most famous work from the South American trips, The Heart of the Andes, 1859 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) was shown to the public in Church’s studio in the Tenth Street Studio Building, his reputation was firmly and forever established.

Throughout his life, Church’s extraordinary group of fine studies and sketches enabled him to compose large-scale, exhibition-worthy paintings of his travels. His blazing skies create a sense of romanticism that is a critical element in many of his best works. Church’s interest in the study of the anatomy of nature during the 1860s was acknowledged internationally. After many years of travel, Church married in 1860, and settled in Hudson, New York across the river from his teacher Thomas Cole. This idyllic location became the site for his magnificent home that he named Olana. It is here that Frederic Church lived the rest of his life.