The Heart Of The Andes by Frederic Edwin Church (1859)

Frederic Edwin Church
The Heart of the Andes by Frederic Church, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

John Calvin

“There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice,” and, therefore, we are “not only to be spectators in this beautiful theatre but to enjoy the vast bounty and variety of good things which are displayed to us in it.”

RickImpressionists, like Monet with his Water Lilies, sought to depict the glory of nature through techniques which could best be appreciated by standing back, away from the painting.  In dramatic contrast, Frederic Edwin Church handed out opera glasses so viewers could examine the details.  From its massive canvas over five feet high and ten feet wide, The Heart of the Andes seemed to bring the actual vista to its viewers.

As Terry Glaspey explains in 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know :

There was a time when a major new painting could attract the kind of interest and publicity that a new film does today, drawing large and enthusiastic crowds to pay to see a single work of art. One such painting was Frederic Church’s The Heart of the Andes, which he had created following an extensive trip to South America, where he trekked through jungles and up mountain peaks in search of exotic beauty. Traveling where few North Americans had ever gone, he experienced a journey through Colombia and Ecuador that was filled with much hardship and several brushes with danger, but it produced one of his most awe-inspiring canvases.

The Heart of the Andes is not a literal representation of any one particular viewpoint that one might see hiking the heights of these legendary mountains but rather an idealized view composed from various sketches he made during his journey—the natural world rearranged for maximum dramatic effect. It is a huge painting, without any one central focus, which must be taken in slowly and leisurely, letting the eye wander over the gorgeous expanse that includes a snowcapped mountain range in the far distance, verdant mountains in the middle ground, and a waterfall with lush tropical vegetation in the foreground. Light rakes across the painting, illuminating the plunging waterfall and its surrounding trees and throwing a spotlight upon a solitary cross in the middle left of the canvas. The cross, for Church, is perhaps the true heart of the Andes, a reminder of the God who created these mountains. In his painting Church sought not only to capture the beauty he had seen but also to impart the same sort of spiritual elevation he had felt when his eyes originally scanned the unfolding splendor. The resulting picture is a grand and sublime vista, infused with Church’s vision of the mystery and majesty of creation.

Has the live viewing of a work of art ever filled you with awe?

John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

D I G  D E E P E R

Frederic Edwin Church

Frederic Edwin Church

(1826–1900). U.S. landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church was active throughout much of the 19th century. He was one of the most prominent members of the Hudson River School, though the exotically dramatic landscapes he painted frequently had little to do with the typical U.S. vistas that were the hallmark of the Hudson River artists. He is famous for his huge and majestic landscapes that portray his deep understanding of nature.

Church was born on May 4, 1826, in Hartford, Conn. He studied with the painter Thomas Cole at his home in Catskill, N.Y., from 1844 to 1847. After moving to New York City he traveled throughout the New England states to sketch landscapes which he would then use as inspiration for his paintings. Developing unusual technical dexterity, Church from the beginning chose for his subjects such marvels of nature as Niagara Falls, volcanoes in eruption, and icebergs. He was greatly influenced by the writings of German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, and in 1853, while he was in Ecuador, he stayed in the house where Humboldt had lived. He portrayed the beauties of the Andes Mountains and tropical forests with great skill. In the management of light and color and the depiction of natural phenomena such as rainbows, mist, and sunsets, his renderings were realistic and emotionally affecting. In their time, these exotic paintings were greatly admired and sold for high prices.

In 1845Church held his first exhibit at the National Academy of Design, and in 1849 he was made a member of the organization. Among his major works are Andes of Ecuador (1855), Niagara (1857), and Cotopaxi (1862). Church traveled widely in Europe and the Middle East, but after 1877 he was forced to abandon painting because of crippling rheumatism in his hands. He spent most of his later years at Olana, his Persian-style house on the Hudson River, which later became a museum. Church died on April 7, 1900, near New York City. Enthusiasm for Church’s works was rekindled in the late 20th century, when he began to be considered one of the foremost U.S. landscape painters. Church’s long-lost masterpiece, Icebergs (1861), was rediscovered in 1979.


Hudson River school was a large group of American landscape painters of several generations who worked between about 1825 and 1870. The name, applied retrospectively, refers to a similarity of intent rather than to a geographic location, though many of the older members of the group drew inspiration from the picturesque Catskill region north of New York City, through which the Hudson River flows. An outgrowth of the Romantic movement, the Hudson River school was the first native school of painting in the United States; it was strongly nationalistic both in its proud celebration of the natural beauty of the American landscape and in the desire of its artists to become independent of European schools of painting.

The early leaders of the Hudson River school were Thomas Doughty, Asher Durand, and Thomas Cole, all of whom worked in the open and painted reverential, carefully observed pictures of untouched wilderness in the Hudson River valley and nearby locations in New England. Although these painters and most of the others who followed their example studied in Europe at some point, all had first achieved a measure of success at home and had established the common theme of the remoteness and splendour of the American interior. Doughty concentrated on serene, lyrical, contemplative scenes of the valley itself. Durand, also lyrical, was more intimate and particularly made use of delicate lighting in woodland scenes. Cole, the most romantic of the early group, favoured the stormy and monumental aspects of nature. Other painters who concentrated on depicting the landscape of the northeastern United States were Alvan Fisher, Henry Inman, and Samuel F.B. Morse and, later, John Kensett, John Casilear, Worthington Whittredge, and Jasper F. Cropsey. Frederic Edwin Church is considered a member of the Hudson River school, although the exotically dramatic landscapes he painted frequently had little to do with typical American vistas. The more individual landscape painter George Inness also began as a Hudson River painter.

For some painters whose theme was untouched landscape, the northeast was less alluring than the more primitive and dramatic landscapes of the west. John Banvard and Henry Lewis painted huge panoramas of empty stretches of the Mississippi River. Among the first artists to explore the Far West were the enormously successful Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt, who painted grandiose scenes of the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, and Yosemite Valley. The Hudson River school remained the dominant school of American landscape painting throughout most of the 19th century.

Sources and Resources


Very handsomely illustrated with fifty-eight color plates of the works of nineteenth-century artists Frederic Edwin Church, Thomas Cole, Jasper Francis Cropsey, and others, The Knights of the Brush is cultural criticism of a high order. It is also a poignant and persuasive appeal for the recovery of art in the service of transcendent beauty, which is inseparable, James Cooper contends in agreement with all who have understood civilization, from the good and the true.

Timothy George, “Evangelicals and the Rule of Faith. Review of The Knights of the Brush: The Hudson River School and the Moral Landscape by James F. Cooper,” First Things, no. 106 (2000): 78.

“Church, Frederic Edwin,” Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).

Baigell, Matthew. Thomas Cole. New York: Watson-Guptill, 1985.

Cooper, James F. Knights of the Brush: The Hudson River School of Painting and the Moral Landscape. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1999.

Kelly, Franklin. Frederic Edwin Church. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1989.

Millhouse, Barbara Babcock. American Wilderness: The Story of the Hudson River School of Painting. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1978.

Ryan, James Anthony. Frederic Church’s Olana. New York: Black Dome Press, 2001.

Veith, Gene Edward. Painters of Faith: The Spiritual Landscape in Nineteenth Century America. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2001.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).


Terry Glaspey


Terry Glaspey

I’m really looking forward to discussing my book, “75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know,” with the members of Literary Life Book Club. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and perspectives on some of the art, music, and literature you’ll discover in the book. I’m interested in how it speaks to you in your life and the ways it inspires, challenges, or maybe even annoys you! I’ll try to share some “deleted scenes” stuff I had to leave out and will tell a few stories about what I experienced while doing the writing and research. Hope that many of you can join us as we look at he stories behind some truly wonderful art.

Let’s explore together!


Join the discussion with Terry on Facebook HERE

Terry Glaspey is a writer, an editor, a creative mentor, and someone who finds various forms of art—painting, films, novels, poetry, and music—to be some of the places where he most deeply connects with God.

He has a master’s degree in history from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), as well as undergraduate degrees emphasizing counseling and pastoral studies.

He has written over a dozen books, including 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know:  Fascinating Stories Behind Great Art, Music, Literature, and Film, Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis, The Prayers of Jane Austen, 25 Keys to Life-Changing Prayer, Bible Basics for Everyone, and others.

Terry enjoys writing and speaking about a variety of topics including creativity and spirituality, the artistic heritage of the Christian faith, the writing of C.S. Lewis, and creative approaches to apologetics.

He serves on the board of directors of the Society to Explore and Record Church History and is listed in Who’s Who in America Terry has been the recipient of a number of awards, including a distinguished alumni award and the Advanced Speakers and Writers Editor of the Year award.

Terry has two daughters and lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Dig Deeper at


Some of the greatest painters, musicians, architects, writers, filmmakers, and poets have taken their inspiration from their faith and impacted millions of people with their stunning creations. Now readers can discover the stories behind seventy-five of these masterpieces and the artists who created them. From the art of the Roman catacombs to Rembrandt to Makoto Fujimura; from Gregorian Chant to Bach to U2; from John Bunyan and John Donne to Flannery O’Connor and Frederick Buechner; this book unveils the rich and varied artistic heritage left by believers who were masters at their craft.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

Order it HERE today.

Published by

Rick Wilcox

Editor in Chief | Literary Life