South America, from a distance
“Cotopaxi,” from 1855, follows a specific template Church would return to often. The view in the painting does not exist in the real world, but Church wanted to give viewers a birds-eye view of the various climates found in Ecuador. His solution was to cut and paste. By doing this he can capture the ice-capped volcano Cotopaxi in the Andes, as well as the various micro-climates that lead down to the Amazon.
South America, Up Close
While Church traveled he would make copious charcoal, and oil sketches. After his travels he returned to his New York studio to paint. This distance from the actual landscapes allowed memory to mix with fact. It’s like how our mind remembers that perfect sunset as brighter, and fuller than an actual photo. In “Morning in the Tropics” Church created an intangible luminosity that highlights both the hazy morning sun on the river, and the details of river foliage.
How He Created Art Blockbusters
Church would frequently exhibit a single painting, and charge visitors 25 cents admission. In 1857, he did this with “Niagara,” a large scale view of Horseshoe Falls from the Canadian side of the river. Church found a way to create a unique, and somewhat harrowing glimpse of the waterfall. In two weeks time, over 100,000 people came to see the spectacle, some of them even brought binoculars. After New York, “Niagara” traveled up and down the East Coast, then headed to Europe.
Church was immensely popular for the majority of his life. His early successes allowed him to maintain a comfortable lifestyle even as the public moved on from the oversize landscapes of the Hudson River School. The movement did not stay in obscurity for long. Interest was rekindled in the works of the Church, and his peers by the 1940s.