Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900)
Twilight in the Wilderness
Oil on canvas
413 x 258 cm
"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."