Frederic Edwin Church, Sunset in the Berkshire Hills (Massachusetts)

Frederic Edwin Church: Sunset in the Berkshire Hills (Massachusetts) (1857) Oil on canvas
Sunset in the Berkshire Hills (Massachusetts)
Oil on canvas
Credit Line
Bequest of Charles Knox Smith
28 1/2 x 35 in.

Sunset in the Berkshire Hills reconciles Frederic Church's dedication to representing both the scientific facts of nature and his overarching belief in nature as an expression of God's glory. The descendant of six generations of New England ministers, Church painted with an exacting fidelity to detail, differentiating the distinct shapes of leaves and the textures of bark from tree to tree. He demonstrates the great diversity of nature within the expansive view of a mountain that obscures the setting sun. Light, shadow, and glowing color interact gloriously in grassy expanses, dense thickets, rocky surfaces, and reflections in the water. The tiny manmade structure at the center of the composition, probably a barn or shelter for the sheep who wander in the clearing at right, is likely an allusion to the Christian metaphor of nature as the cradle of God's flock. The extraordinary range of colors in the sunset -gold, pink, orange, blue, green, and red - is simultaneously sublime and tranquil.

Frederic Edwin Church studied under Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School, and artist who advocated for “a higher style of landscape” that was not merely descriptive, but suffused with “a language strong, moral, and imaginative.” After his training, Church established his own studio in New York City, where he began to build a reputation for his luminous and panoramic outdoor scenes.

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  • I felt totally drawn into landscape by the captured beauty of the sky light. This painting is very powerful in the expression of great sensitivity to and love of nature...the good earth.

    Patricia A. Avallone
  • Due to excessive heat warnings, Saturday Night Jazz on June 22, Tribute to Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding: Memphis Soul, will be held INDOORS. Seating will be provided by the Museum. No refreshments are permitted inside the building.