Tuesday, December 6, 2022

How Church Painted the Icebergs

In 1859,  American artist Frederic Church (1826-1900) commissioned a schooner to take him on a plein-air painting expedition to "Iceberg Alley," a dangerous region surrounding Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Church produced an impressive set of oil studies from observation to provide the raw material for his big studio painting of The Icebergs (later called "The North"), above. 

The big painting is now in the Dallas Museum of Art, but was lost for many years.

To commemorate that adventure, and to recognize the fragility of arctic landscapes, Frederic Church's estate Olana is hosting an exhibition called "Chasing Icebergs: Art and a Disappearing Landscape."

It's a small show, with Church's art occupying just one upstairs bedroom. Unfortunately the show doesn't include any of the paintings in this post, instead relying on notes and documentary information. But if you haven't toured the house of Olana, it's worth checking out.

Louis Noble, who accompanied Church on the expedition, noted that the artist had a bad case of sea sickness during most of the voyage, but he painted anyway, using a paintbox open on his lap. 

Noble said: “While I have been talking, the painter, who sits midship, with his thin, broad box upon his knees, making his easel of the open lid, has been dashing in the colors.”

Noble continues: “Again, the painter wipes his brushes, puts away his second picture, and tacks a fresh pasteboard within the cover of his box, and gives word to pull for the south-western side.”
Exhibition: Chasing Icebergs: Art and a Disappearing Landscape will be on view through March 26, 2023. Price of admission is $10.00.

Book: The quotes are from After Icebergs with a Painter by Louis Noble.

Book: The Voyage of the Icebergs: Frederic Church's Arctic Masterpiece by Eleanor Jones Harvey

Wikipedia: The Icebergs
Thanks, Ida Brier and Glenda Berman


Dick Hopkinson said...

Hi James, your timing is perfect! I'm adding Olana to my holiday travel road trip. I looked it up and found about the Hudson River Skywalk bridge that crosses the Hudson from Olana to the Thomas Cole site. I'm really looking forward to visiting them.
Dick Hopkinson

Unknown said...

Have made the pilgrimage to Olana after a friend’s funeral. Highly recommended!
BTW it was Frederick Edwin Church’s opinion tings that got me into design and painting. In the very early up’s my dad’s employer the Federal Reserve Board was one of the sponsors of the Lumenists show/ The notion of going west was planted in me as well as I now live in Silicon Valley and belong to 2 Plein Air painting groups.

CerverGirl said...

These are lovely. Thank you for sharing the information. I would love to see Olana.
Thank you for keeping up the blog. I love the easy access via your blog app.