South American Landscape

Frederic Edwin Church

Paisaje sudamericano

Church, Frederic Edwin

Hartford, 1826 - Nueva York, 1900

South American Landscape, 1856

© Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza

Signed and dated lower right: ''F. E. Church 56''
Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Oil on canvas

59,5 x 92 cm


Artwork history

  • Ezra B. McCagg, Chicago (IL).

  • Theresa Davis McCagg, Washington (DC).

  • National Collection of Fine Art (currently the National Museum of American Art), Smithsonian Institution, Washington (DC), 1917-1982. (on loan).

  • Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York, 1982.

  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano, 1983.

  • Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.


Chicago Exhibition of Fine Arts, Chicago (IL), nº 2. The work is listed as: South-American panorama.


Frederic Edwin Church, Washington (DC), National Collection of Fine Arts; Albany (NY), Albany Institute of History and Art; New York (NY), M. Knoedler & Co., nº 68.


Maestri Americani della Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza, Vatican City, Musei Vaticani, nº 6.


Maestri Americani della Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza, Lugano, Villa Malpensata, nº 6.

1984 - 1986

American Masters: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Baltimore (MD), The Baltimore Museum of Art; Detroit (MI), The Detroit Institute of Arts; Denver (CO), Denver Art Museum; San Antonio (TX), Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute; New York (NY), IBM Gallery of Arts and Sciences; San Diego (CA), San Diego Museum of Art; Palm Beach (FL), The Society of the Four Arts, nº 6.

1988 - 1989

Bilder aus der Neuen Welt. Amerikanische Malerei des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts. Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Thyssen-Bornemisza und Museen der Vereinigten Staaten, Berlin, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz; Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich, nº 13, illus.

1998 - 1999

Masterworks from the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum; Takaoka, Takaoka Art Museum; Nagoya, Matsuzaka Art Museum; Sendai, Miyagi Museum of Art, nº 20, p. 58.


Aspectos de la tradición paisajística en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Málaga, Salas de Exposiciones del Palacio Episcopal, nº 50, p. 166.

1999 - 2000

Naturalezas pintadas de Brueghel a Van Gogh. Pintura naturalista en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, nº 26, p. 94.


De Corot a Monet. Los orígenes de la pintura moderna en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Valencia, Museo del Siglo XIX, p. 76.

2000 - 2001

Explorar el Edén. Paisaje americano del siglo XIX, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, nº 43, p. 157.


Landschaften von Brueghel bis Kandinsky. Die Ausstellung zu Ehren des Sammlers Hans Heinrich Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza, Bonn, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, nº 37, p. 112.


Il trionfo del colore. Collezione Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Kandinsky, Rome, Palazzo Ruspoli, p. 70.

2002 - 2003

Expedition Kunst. Die Entdeckung der Natur von c. D. Friedrich bis Humboldt, Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle, nº 26, p. 183.


Turner to Monet: the triumph of landscape, Canberra, National Gallery of Australia, nº 55, p. 158, illus. p. 159.

  • -The Washington Post. Washington, [1974- ], (June 18th, 1981), B2-3, illus.

  • -Novak, Barbara: Nineteenth-Century American Painting: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Ellis, Elizabeth Garrity. [et al.]. London, Sotheby´s Publications, 1986 , nº 15, pp. 90-91, illus. [Sheet by Manthorne].

  • -Gaehtgens, Thomas W. (ed.): Bilder aus der Neuen Welt. Amerikanische Malerei des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts. Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Thyssen-Bornemisza und Museen der Vereinigten Staaten. Adams, Willi Paul. [et al.]. [Exhib. Cat. Berlin, Nationalgalerie – Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich, 1988-1989]. Munich, Prestel, 1988 , [Sheet by Kahl].

  • -Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Arnaldo, Javier (ed.). 2 vols. Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2004, vol. 1, p. 252, illus. p. 253 [Sheet by Katherine E. Manthorne].

  • -Turner to Monet: the triumph of landscape. Dixon, Christine; Radford, Ron and Ward, Lucina (eds.). [Exhib. cat.]. Canberra, National Gallery of Australia, 2008 , p. 158, illus. p. 159 [Sheet by Mary Eagle].

  • -Navas Sanz de Santamaría, Pablo: El viaje de Frederic Edwin Church por Colombia y Ecuador (abril-octubre de 1853). Bogotá, Villegas Editores-Universidad de los Andes, 2008, p. 35, illus. p. 31.

  • -Alarcó, P. and Borobia, M. (eds.): Guía de la colección. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2012, p. 206, illus. p. 207.

Expert report

Frederic Church was one of the leading figures of the Hudson River School, whose greatest achievement was arguably the popularisation of tropical scenes in its subject repertoire. He accomplished this with the sheer power of his brush, which was so versatile he could re-create the look of dense, rich vegetation and magnificent palms; of snow-capped Andean peaks; and remnants of colonial churches. The canvases he produced from his first trip to Colombia and Ecuador in 1853 onward dazzled the public with their convincing realism, and for the better part of two decades kept them clamouring for more. Interest in South America was high in the United States in the 1850s, when the writings of the great German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt were widely read. His call for artists to seek new inspiration in tropical America seems to have been directed to Church, whom many regarded as Humboldt’s true heir. Travelling in the naturalist’s footsteps, Church combined the rigors of his geology and botany with aesthetic dictates to create landscape art of stunning technical virtuosity and novel subjects.

During 1856 and early 1857 Church was much preoccupied with his work on his large canvas Niagara (1857; Corcoran Gallery of Art). Simultaneously he planned his second expedition to South America, and painted a succession of fine tropical pictures including In the Tropics (1856; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond), View of Cotopaxi (1857; Art Institute of Chicago), and South American Landscape. These works express his anticipation of the forthcoming travels and the shift of his interest toward more rugged scenery and emotional presentation. He experimented with compositional motifs to achieve these effects in South American Landscape, where the right foreground is taken up by a wedge of dense vegetation, balanced at the left and slightly further back by the dark mass of a hill topped by a domed church. From there, the viewer’s eye leaps back to the snow-capped Andean peak in the distance. The artist, in other words, has eliminated a clear middle ground; dispensing with the gradual steps from foreground to distance, he creates a more dramatic picture. He was moving toward his formal solutions of the panoramic Heart of the Andes (1859; MMA), which was seen in a single-work exhibition and accompanied by published guidebook that led the viewer step-by-step through the pictured landscape. Already in the Thyssen picture, however, he is striving to achieve similar effect, for which he departed from traditional compositional formula to recreate the experience of being in the Andes. Church invites the viewer to identify with the female figure who has stopped by the roadside in the centre of South American Landscape; like her, we will soon be on our way, walking down the visible path and then disappearing into the vegetation to get to the mountain beyond.

Church crossed into Ecuador from Colombia on 25 August 1853, when he encountered scenery he described in his own words as “a view of such unparalleled magnificence […] that I must pronounce it one of the great wonders of Nature […] My ideal of the Cordilleras is realized.” For days afterward a series of immense “snow peaks” were constantly in view. Chimborazo was one, declared by Humboldt to be the highest and most noble of all. Its distinctive profile, which continued to fascinate Church, makes an early appearance in the distance of South American Landscape.

Katherine E. Manthorne