Natural History Science: From Thomas Cole to Frederic Edwin Church


Cole had one student, Frederic Edwin Church. This painting is a typical example of his early work. The mountain, chronicled in Thoreau's The Maine Woods, represented nonhuman wilderness to the people of New England. Church placed a rural scene in the foreground to show a harmony of the human world with wildness.

Church's approach to painting changed after reading Alexander Humboldt's The Cosmos. In the book, that noted scientist lamented that he had not taken an artist with him to paint the lands that he studied. One year later, Church left for South America to retrace Humboldt's scientific journeys.

Frederic Edwin Church: Mount Ktaadn, 1853, Yale University Art Gallery