Fern Hunting Among These Picturesque Mountains: Frederic Edwin Church in Jamaica

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by Elizabeth Kornhauser 

Preface and Acknowledgments by Washburn S. Oberwager

In 1865, the American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church and his wife, Isabel, traveled to Jamaica on a sojourn of recovery after the tragic deaths of their two young children Herbert and Emma. A time to mourn and escape from the constant reminders found at their home, Olana, the Churches' trip to Jamaica also provided ample inspiration for Frederic.

The Olana Collection includes eight oil sketches, an ink drawing, and a pencil drawing Church made in Jamaica. Five of these oil sketches on paper Church chose to mount to canvas and frame for his and Isabel's enjoyment; over the years they have hung in different rooms at Olana. From these works, and others held by the Cooper-Hewitt, Church created two major studio oils, The Vale of St. Thomas, Jamaica, 1867 (the Wadsworth Atheneum) and The After Glow, 1867 (the Olana Collection). Within Church's oeuvre the studies of Jamaican sunsets, mountains, and foliage are particularly lovely. Church wrote of Jamaica: The scenery is superb.... I have accomplished a great amount of work--but there is so much to do that I am at a loss to decide day by day--what to paint.

The 2010 exhibit at Olana will help explain Church's working process by showing Sunset Jamaica and the resulting studio work The After Glow together, it will include five works never before exhibited and reveal Church's interesting use of his photography collection both as an aide-mémoire and as substrate for sketching. Fern Hunting among Picturesque Mountains includes forty-eight color illustrations, as well as essays by Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser (on Church's Jamaica work) and Katherine Manthorne (about Church's friends and fellow artists who also traveled to Jamaica to paint).

71 pages
Published 2010