Mark Harden's Artchive Church, Frederic Edwin
Twilight in the Wilderness
1860
Oil on canvas
40 x 64 in. (101.6 x 162.6 cm)
The Cleveland Museum of Art

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For information regarding possible commercial licensing of this image from Scala Group, Art Resource or Bridgeman Art Library, click here. Text from "Sister Wendy's American Masterpieces":

"Some paintings seem to bear their nationality on their faces. Church's Twilight in the Wilderness could only, I feel, be American. Church specialized in works inspired by the sheer vastness of the American continent. He went to South America, and painted the Andes; he traveled north, and gloried in the Niagara Falls; and he moved on to the huge silences of the icebergs. He held one-painting shows of these immense canvases, which people flocked to see, encountering these marvels of nature for the first time. Here, he painted the east coast: his own Maine.

"What I find fascinating is that everybody who looked on this magnificent scene and published a reaction seems to have a different interpretation. Some homed in on the eagle, up there on the left, and saw a symbol of American power. Some noticed where the branches cross, and saw a suggestion of Christianity. Others, noting the absence of human beings, claimed the pines as our surrogates - standing tall and strong, as the frontier expects. I must say that the pines most evident are somewhat twisted and scruffy, which gives the landscape a remarkable air of conviction; this is no ideal place, but truly what Church looked down upon. The one interpretation that I find sustainable hinges on the painting's date. In 1860, the menace in the sky would have been all too real. The Civil War would soon break out, and the blood-red tide would spread throughout the land."