Frederic Edwin Church's Contribution to Defining America

Powerful Essays

Frederic Edwin Church was clearly an epic and defining figure among the Hudson River School painters, particularly in his collaborative efforts in developing a sense of national identity for America, but also in fostering tourism through landscape painting, political influence, and entrepreneurialism. By answering the national call for artists and writers to define American landscape, Church took the first steps towards becoming, not only one of America’s greatest painters, but also a successful entrepreneur when it came to selling his own work to make a living. Church was dedicated to preserving “scientific accuracy” in his interpretations of nature and beauty, which were stimulated by the scientific writings of geographer and explorer Alexander von Humboldt.1

Two of America’s early tourist destinations in the nineteenth century were Niagara Falls and the Catskill Mountain area. This essay will mainly focus on Frederic Church’s personal contributions to the development of a national identity, and the tourism industry, in relation to these destinations in the midst of expansion throughout America. Through paintings and lithographic reproductions, the American and European public became increasingly aware of the magnificent beauty of America’s unique landscapes, along with the growing phenomenon of scenic touring.2

This essay will also compare the work of Thomas Moran, another Hudson River School artist working with the same subject matter, and will attempt to clarify the artist’s similarities and differences in regard to both technique and contributions. The work of Winslow Homer, a contemporary of Church, will be briefly discussed in relation to the impact the Civil War had on subject matter in relationship to nati...

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