Artwork Detail

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
American, 1826–1900
Oil on canvas
40 1/16 x 60 1/8 "
Bequest of Charles Parsons, 1905
WU 2174
Frederic Edwin Church, like his fellow Hudson River school artists, traveled widely, especially to the American West and South America. Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta depicts the coastal mountain range of Colombia, based on sketches the artist made during his initial visit to the region thirty years earlier. The painting presents a composite view of the landscape as a lost paradise—a verdant, tropical land untouched by civilization and the rise of industry—with its elements arranged to conform to principles of the picturesque landscape tradition. In the far distance the central Santa Marta mountain peak rises against the softly glowing sky; its rocky foothills cradle the glassy lake in the middle ground and give way to lush jungle in the foreground. The palm trees framing the painting at the right suggest an Edenic landscape, while the round orb of the sun casts a unifying glow over the entire scene. [Permanent collection label, 2016]