Art: The Heart of the Andes


WE Americans, amidst the confusion and stir of material interests, are not inattentive to the progress of those claims whose growth is as silent as that of the leaves around us, and whose values find no echo in Wall Street.

With the spring there has bloomed in New York a flower of no common beauty. All the fashion and influence there have been to hail this growth of our soil at its cloistered home in Tenth Street. There is but one opinion of the beauty and novelty of the stranger. It is of the “ Heart of the Andes,” by Mr. Frederick E. Church, we speak. This artist, now known for some years as he who has with most daring tracked to its depths the witchery and wonder of our summer skies, and the results of whose two visits to South America have ere this shown how sensitive and sure the photograph of his memory is, gives us from the trop-plein of his souvenirs this last and crowning page.

We hold the merit and charm of Mr. Church’s works to be, that they are so American in feeling and treatment. What chiefly distinguishes America from Europe, as the object of landscape, is, that Europe is the region of “bits,” of picturesque compositions, of sun-flecked lanes, of nestling villages, and castle-crowned steeps,—while with us everything is less condensed, on a wider scale, and with vaster spaces.

Mr. Church has the eagle eye to measure this vastness. He loves a wide expanse, a boundless horizon. He does not, gypsy-like, hide with Gainsborough beneath a hedge, but his glance sweeps across a continent, and no detail escapes him. This is what makes the "Andes” a really marvellous picture. In intellectual grasp, clear and vivid apprehension of what be wants and where to put it, we think Mr. Church without an equal. Quite a characteristic of his is a love of detail and finish without injury to breadth and general effect. You look into his picture with an opera-glass as you would into the next field from an open window. His power is not so much one of suggestion, an appeal to the beauty and grandeur in yourself, as the ability to become a colorless medium to beauty and grandeur from without; hence the impression is at first hand, and such as Nature herself produces.

The world abounds in pictures where loving human faculty has lifted ordinary motives into our sympathy; but where the subject is the grandest landscape affluence of the world, effect, in the ordinary sense, ceases to be of value. We need the thing, and no human ennobling of it. In this picture we have it; no spectral cloudpile, but a real Chimborazo, with the hoar of eternity upon its scalp, looks down upon the happy New-Yorker in his first May perspiration. And as the wind sets east, no yellow hint at something warming, but whole dales and plains still in the real sunshine, take the chill from off his heart. No wonder he, his wife, and his quietly enthusiastic girls throng and sit there. They are proud in their hearts of the handsome young painter. And well they may be ! Never has the New World sent so native a flavor to the Old. Unlike so many others of our good artists, there is no saturation from the past in Mr. Church. No souvenir of what once was warm and new in the heart of Claude or Poussin ages the fresh work. It has a relish of our soil; its almost Yankee knowingness, its placid, clear, intellectual power, with its delicate sentiment and strong self-reliance, are ours; we delightfully feel that it belongs to us, and that we are of it.

Such is the last great work of the New York school of landscape,— a living school, and destined to long triumphs,— already appreciated and nobly encouraged. Its members are men as individual and various in their gifts, as they are harmonious and manly in their mutual recognition and fellowship.