Fredric Edwin Church

October 20, 2010

Icebergs, by Fredric Edwin Church is categorized as a painting from the second generation of the Hudson River School (which is differentiated as the period post Thomas Cole’s premature death in 1848).  Their style of painting is generally regarded as Luminsim , in which the paintings depict the effects of light in landscapes often emphasizing the tranquility of nature. During the time, these painters did not refer to their own art as “Luminism,” however the term later arose after much comparison was made to the impressionist movement.  Stylistically, Luminism can be characterized by the attention to detail and the hiding of brushstrokes, while impressionism is the opposite.

Church’s “Icebergs” has been said to “encapsulate the Arctic Sublime in a single frame.” Interestingly enough, the painting was lost for more than half a century, and once it was discovered created quite a spectacle when it toured around England. It is said that people waited in tremendous lines and paid up to 50 cents to view the painting.
The painting was inspired by the disappearance of the Franklin Expedition which was lost while searching for the Northwest Passage in 1847. Note the mast in the foreground which pays homage to the lost voyagers (which was actually added later). What caught my attention to this painting is the way the sky looms above the icebergs in a serene yet almost omniscient way. The beige tones fade into the icebergs, yet somehow I find that the size and the magnitude of the icebegs are captured within the scale of the painting. Furthermore, Church gives us a first person point-of-view by placing the eye of the viewer on an iceberg.
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