(Click on each one to make them get bigger and more awesome!)
Can you tell this man, this artist, traveled the globe?
In their day and age, these four pictures were literally the kings of the world. They were shipped around the globe as superstars in separate single-work "shows." (Can you image? Instead of dropping $12 to see a 2-hour movie, people in America and Europe dropped their money to just go and stand in front of these babies). The pictures earned their creator thousands of dollars from ticket and reproduction sales. The first one, Heart of the Andes, set a record when it was purchased for the highest price ever paid to a living American artist for one painting ($10,000).
These works showcase some of the smartest ideas brewing among the minds of the Western world's intellectuals around the time of the Civil War: Darwinism. Metaphysical religion. Modern oceanographic, optic, geological, and botanical studies (the last two as championed by Alexander von Humboldt, the artist's hero). They also smoothly integrate antebellum and "bellum" pop-culture interests to keep the little people, the normal ones, talking about and ogling them, too: The mysterious and widely-discussed disappearance of one English explorer, Sir John Franklin, into the Arctic sea in the 1840s. The mania for Niagara area tourism, as facilitated for the public by the new American railroad or "iron horse." The innovative (if extremely un-PC) idea to ship American slaves to South America in order to stave off civil war any way possible.
Art is so neat. So is Frederic Edwin Church, the artist I'm learning pretty much everything about in order to find an angle that no one's covered yet.
One of my favorite, most professionally inspiring quotes seems appropriate here today, mid paper-writing storm:
"A work of art is an infinitely complex focus of human experience. The mystery of its creation, its history, and the rise and fall of its esthetic, documentary, sentimental, and commercial values, the endless variety of its relationships to the other works of art, its physical condition, the meaning of its subject, the technique of its production, the purpose of the man who made it- all these factors lie behind a work of art, converge upon it, and challenge our powers of analysis and publication. And they should be made accessible to other scholars and intelligible to the man off the street."
-Alfred H. Barr, Jr., 1946 (One of my heroes- he's the founding director of New York's Museum of Modern Art; a very influential and innovative voice in the early Modern New York scene. Someday, if no one else has done it, I'll write his biography. He had very interesting things to say about Christian artworks, too.)