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

Frederic Edwin Church: Sunset in the Berkshire Hills (Massachusetts) (1857) Oil on canvas
Title
Sunset in the Berkshire Hills (Massachusetts)
Date
1857
Medium
Oil on canvas
Credit Line
Bequest of Charles Knox Smith
Dimensions
28 ½ x35 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 water. The tiny man-made 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, red -is simultaneously sublime and tranquil.

Frederic Edwin Church studied under the artist Thomas Cole, founder of the  Hudson River School, 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