Fern Hunting Among These Picturesque Mountains: Church in Jamaica

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Frederic Edwin Church in Jamaica (The Olana Collection)

By Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser and Katherine Manthorne

In 1865, the American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church and his wife, Isabel, traveled to Jamaica on a sojourn of recovery after the tragic deaths of their two young children Herbert and Emma. A time to mourn and escape from the constant reminders found at their home, Olana, the Churches' trip to Jamaica also provided ample inspiration for Frederic.

Throwing himself into the exploration and documentation of the island, the renowned artist produced a variety of works ranging from delicate pen sketches of palm trees to oil sketches of the atmospheric Blue Mountains and brilliant sunsets. The importance of the trip is reflected in the number of studies Church chose to mount, frame, and display at Olana, which became a major attraction for visitors to his home.

The best of the related sketches and paintings from Jamaica comprised the 2010 exhibit at Olana in which Fern Hunting among Picturesque Mountains helped explain Church's working process by showing Sunset Jamaica, and the resulting studio work The After Glow, 1867, together; it included five works never before exhibited and revealed Church's interesting use of his photography collection both as an aide-mémoire and as substrate for sketching. Within Church's oeuvre the studies of Jamaican sunsets, mountains, and foliage are particularly lovely.

Fern Hunting among Picturesque Mountains includes forty-eight color illustrations, as well as essays by Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser (on Church's Jamaica work) and Katherine Manthorne (about Church's friends and fellow artists who also traveled to Jamaica to paint).

Church wrote of Jamaica: "The scenery is superb. . . . I have accomplished a great amount of work—but there is so much to do that I am at a loss to decide day by day—what to paint."

Hardcover, 80 pages, 48 illustrations

Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 0.5 inches

This book is a great memento from the exhibition, Church: A Painter's Pilgrimage, which will be at the Detroit Institute of Arts from October 22, 2017 — January 15, 2018.