Artwork Detail

Twilight: Mount Desert Island, Maine
American, 1826–1900
Oil on canvas
31 5/16 x 48 7/16 "
Bequest of Charles Parsons, 1905
WU 2175
Frederic Edwin Church, a student of Thomas Cole and a leading member of the Hudson River school, painted grand, expansive pictures with precise topographical detail that emphasized the majestic power of the natural world. The glowing red sky of Twilight: Mount Desert Island, Maine suggests the natural drama present in such a quotidian occurrence as the setting of the sun. Framed by the sweep of a rocky coastline and coniferous trees, the passing light of the early evening sky conveys a mood of finality and even exhaustion, which resonated with events of the time on both national and personal levels for the artist. In 1865 the Civil War was finally drawing to its close, leaving Americans with deep wounds of physical and psychic trauma, and Church experienced devastating loss with the deaths of both a son and a daughter from diphtheria in March of that year. The panorama of the landscape suggests a sublime encounter with the mountainous scene, leading viewers to consider broader implications such as the sense of an ending in nature and the close of an era in the life of the American nation. The deer near the stream on the right offers a symbolic counterbalance to the overall theme of the picture, indicating a renewal of life even as daylight fades. [Permanent collection label, 2017]