Hello readers, Welcome back to my blog!
I was inspired to start writing again to share with you a series of strange coincidences I experienced a few nights ago. We wanted to watch a movie and I suggested that we watch a documentary on St. Paul’s Cathedral. I got up to find the DVD and my eyes fell on a documentary of the Hudson River School and we decided to watch that instead. Now the Hudson River School actually refers to a group of American artists that shared a similar aesthetic of landscape painting. They painted in the early to mid Nineteenth century and were greatly influenced by Romanticism as well as the belief that our natural places were uniquely blessed by God and should serve as the basis of our cultural identity. Their paintings were supremely important in a new country struggling to find its place and purpose in the world. Through their paintings, the nation was able to see spectacular places, and consequently to take pride in them and seek to preserve them.
This is my absolute favorite genre of painting. In fact, the last time I had been in a museum was to view a collection of Hudson Valley works in Cincinnati before Covid struck. The paintings are breathtaking – especially with the handling of light across majestic scenes. And the attention to the ecosystem and natural details is outstanding. Wikipedia has a great selection of artwork if you search “Hudson River School”.
During the DVD they discussed a famous painting by Frederick Church called “Heart of the Andes”. Church painted this work as an homage to the explorer Alexander von Humboldt, and had traveled in his steps to Peru to create his landscape.
I perked up at the mention of Humboldt, who is a personal hero and my favorite of all scientific explorers. I love him deeply – and my love for him started with a portrait. I can’t recall where I first saw it – maybe in a textbook, but I was arrested by the gentleness in his eyes and that he was surrounded with plants.
This mention of Humboldt in the DVD made me want to see that portrait again, so I googled it and was trying to find out who painted it. I visited about 15 sites to find the credited portraitist, and I finally found it on a Smithsonian page. And that page was describing an exhibit that was about Humboldt’s influence on the United States in terms of science, art, culture, and politics. Oh, my goodness!!!! What an incredible idea!! This is exactly the sort of intersection of art, science, and culture that thrills my heart. I thought how wonderful it would be to see it, but the exhibition ended in January. Sigh….. so close. I clicked the “read more” tab to find out more of the elusive exhibit full of wondrous things. And – would you believe it? The exhibit dates had changed and it was open until July11th!!
And that my dear readers, is how through a series of linked coincidences (or ordinary miracles), I find myself standing 4 days later at the steps of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC to pay my respects and experience the life of this amazing man.
Stay tuned to hear feedback of the once-in-a-lifetime exhibit.
Blessings to you,