Frederic Edwin Church (1826 – 1900): Twilight in the2/21/2021, 9:53:28 AM
Frederic Edwin Church (1826 – 1900): Twilight in the Wilderness (detail), 1860, 101.6cm x 162.6cm, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio Although 'Twilight in the Wilderness' is a convincing landscape, it does not depict a specific place. Church created it by combining several different sketches made in Maine and New York. The dramatic light electrifying the entire composition is based on sunsets he witnessed from the window of his New York City studio. Perhaps the artist intended twilight to suggest the end of a cosmic cycle---a meaning that coincides with the feeling that the Civil War (imminent in 1860 when this picture was made) would change American civilization forever. The panoramic splendor created by brilliant clouds floating above a tranquil landscape also suggests "the divine authority of manifest destiny," the idea that Americans of European stock had a right to the continent. Seen by large numbers of Americans in a touring exhibition organized by Church himself, this picture was marketed as essentially "American"---a comforting, patriotic image of the American wilderness.