A blurb about Humboldt, Church and beautiful Colombia

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“The countries bordering the equator possess another advantage, to which sufficient attention has not hitherto been directed.  This portion of the surface of the globe affords in the smallest space, the greatest possible variety of impressions from the contemplation of nature.”

From Cosmos: a sketch of a physical description of the universe, Volume I by Alexander von Humboldt,

This quote was presented during a lecture on the artist Frederic Edwin Church and I was immediately struck because it perfectly articulated something I’ve tried many times to express regarding my impressions of Colombia and secondly, because I felt validated in the amount of time I’ve spent trying to tell people what a beautiful, unique place Colombia is.  Ha, I can continue to shamelessly tout the beauty of my new home!

That was pretty much what I wanted to share, but in case you’re curious, here’s a bit more about Church and his trip through Latin America.

Church (1826-1900) was an American painter of the Hudson River School (a group of romantic landscape painters who focused their work primarily on the Hudson River and surrounding areas of the northeastern U.S.) who in 1853 traveled for six months through Ecuador, Peru and Colombia.  His trip was financed by Cyrus Field, an entrepreneur who wanted to use Church’s talent in romanticized landscapes to entice investment in his Latin American ventures.  Church did stay true to his roots in his use of rich colors (though a bit muted compared to his earlier works), his fascination with ethereal light and keeping both fore and background in focus at the same time.  However, Church paid homage to another inspiration, von Humboldt (the naturalist and geographer who was the first modern scientist to travel and document the nature of Latin America 50 years prior), in his unflinching detail of flora and fauna.  The lecturer said that even today, botanists can identify plant species in his painting which are individual to specific locations.

The remainder of the lecture was about how this trip and the paintings produced in this time did so much to draw attention to the beauty in this part of the world.  If I understood correctly (forgive me, the lecture was in Spanish!) he was one of the first painters to to depict South America in large scale works.  That being said, in a time before cameras his paintings were revolutionary.  People waited in line and paid an admission fee to see Heart of the Andes and in fact, it was sold for $10,000 USD, which was a record for a living American artist.

“Heart of the Andes” by Frederic Edwin Church – Metropolitan Museum of Art, online collection. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Most of his works (which aren’t in private collections) are scattered throughout U.S. museums.  Be sure to keep an eye out for his name…or better yet, come experience Colombia for yourself.

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