See Church’s Reverence for the Sublime: A Significant Selection of Early Works
A portion of the pie that is Frederic Edwin Church’s oeuvre is currently on display at the Portland Museum of Art. Open through September 30, Maine Sublime: Frederic Edwin Church’s Landscapes of Mount Desert and Mount Katahdin features twenty-three small paintings and drawings of the exhibition’s eponymous landmarks. During the early stages of his career, Church took a solo trip to Mount Desert in 1850, and two years later went to Mount Katahdin, where the fiery sunsets of Maine would be burned into his memory for the remainder of his career. Unlike the large-scale works typically seen in his later career, these earlier, travel-size paintings and drawings were easier for Church to carry as he traipsed along the rocky shorelines and through the wilderness.
The compact nature of both the exhibition and of the Frederic Edwin Church landscape paintings on display offers a refreshing take on a part of the artist’s career that is sometimes glossed over for the sake of brevity. Thomas Cole, the father of the Hudson River School, took a young Church under his wing for two years beginning in 1848; the selection of works at the Portland Museum of Art demonstrate Church’s efforts at shaping the instruction of his mentor to suit his own interests and personal approach.
Both Thomas Cole and Thomas Doughty had been to Mount Desert, but you might be surprised to learn that their first visit was also their last. Unlike Cole and Doughty, Church was like a moth to a flame when it came to the vibrant and colorful sunsets at Mount Desert, and rumor has it that he might have even been the first painter to visit Mount Katahdin. The time spent in solitude and venturing through the unexplored terrain allowed Church to contemplate the great vastness and beauty of the world, and viewers are able to see the first stirrings of the Sublime beginning to manifest itself within the early-American landscape paintings of Frederic Edwin Church.
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