Chimborazo

Frederic Edwin Church
1826-1900

Chimborazo

1864
Oil on canvas

Gift of the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation
89.1

Frederic Church journeyed to South America in 1853 and 1857, following in the footsteps of Alexander von Humboldt, the leading naturalist in the era before Charles Darwin. The resulting paintings, including Chimborazo and The Heart of the Andes (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), embody Humboldt's theory of the interdependence of natural systems. Church takes the viewer on a virtual trip from the torrid, tropical Ecuadorian rainforest to the temperate grasslands in the center to the frigid, ice-clad peak of Mount Chimborazo, which hovers over the scene. In Humboldt's science, these three ecosystems depended on one another.

Church painted plants in the foreground with such detail that botanists today can identify many specific species. Although committed to scientific accuracy, Church presents a composite view of the area around Mt. Chimborazo based on extensive field studies. Rather than simply transcribe nature, Church wished to convey the whole experience of Ecuador to the viewer.

The recreation by Eli Wilner and Company of the original frame designed by Frederic Church for Chimborazo was funded by a gift from Steve Martin.