Fire and Ice
Treasures from the Photographic Collection of Frederic Church at Olana
Foreword by Kevin Avery
Frederic Church (1826–1900), who gained international renown for paintings such as Niagara (1857), Heart of the Andes (1859), Twilight in the Wilderness (1860), and The Icebergs (1861), was inspired by his extensive travel and study. His work was also informed by his appreciation of a new visual medium. Fire and Ice, a selection from the several thousand photographs and daguerreotypes Church collected at Olana, his Orientalist home on the Hudson River, provides insight into the interests and taste of one of nineteenth-century America's greatest painters.
Church was a boy of thirteen when the invention of photography was announced to the world. As a painter, he was of the first generation to grow up with photographs and consider them a useful adjunct to his work. Church collected photographs and daguerreotypes by early pioneers of the art, including Désiré Charnay, Eadweard Muybridge, and Carleton Watkins. His collection appears to have served largely as a source of inspiration and armchair travel, reminding him of favorite locations and details of architecture, culture, and landscape.
In Fire and Ice, images from Church's collection are shown along with a selection of his own oil sketches, drawings, and archival materials. Some of the photographs are devoted to the varied geographical interests reflected in Church's art and travels: Central and South America, the Middle East, and the polar North. Others served as visual reference for the design and construction of Olana. Lavishly illustrated, Fire & Ice shows how the photographs in Church's collection echoed the principal stages of the painter's career.