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Panoramas: Lower Valley
Washington Irving's Sunnyside
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"The recollection of the blue mountains is as fresh and vivid to me as the day I last saw them," wrote twenty-year-old Frederic Church to Thomas Cole, his former art teacher, about the Catskill Mountains. Fourteen years later this memory brought the artist back to build a home for his family. By then internationally lionized, Church had traveled the Americas seeking panoramic landscapes to paint. On large-scale canvases he depicted the variety and splendor of the Americas: the frigid iridescence of icebergs, the ceaseless turbulence of Niagara, and the boiling fury of South American volcanoes. Church created the images that fixed the features of the American continents for a generation of pioneers and entrepreneurs. This modest seventh-generation New Englander became a sought-after but reluctant celebrity.

Throughout the 1880s he continued to elaborate upon the naturalistic landscape at Olana. Myriad scenes were composed contrasting open pastoral views, dark mysterious woodlands, and passive water reflecting the landscape with the majestic Hudson River and sublime distant mountains. The careful placement of roads revealed these scenes to the viewer in an orderly sequence of experiences, allowing the landscape to be seen through Church's sensibilities.

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