Ni­a­gara and Baal­bek

Two re­cently re­dis­cov­ered paint­ings by Fred­eric Ed­win Church

American Fine Art Magazine - - In This Issue - By Ger­ald L. Carr

Two re­cently re­dis­cov­ered paint­ings by Fred­eric Ed­win Church

In late 2014, two note­wor­thy, un­dated, plein air or near-plein air oil paint­ings by Fred­eric E. Church (18261900) came to—brighter—light, both through the art mar­ket. Both of sim­i­lar, mod­est sizes, one of them cur­rently high­lights a ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tion of Church’s works, Fred­eric Church: a Painter’s Pil­grim­age, or­ga­nized by the Detroit In­sti­tute of Arts. Each scene por­trays a fa­vorite place of

his, at a pro­pi­tious pe­riod of his ca­reer: the Ni­a­gara-horse­shoe Falls re­gion of Newyork and On­tario, Canada; au­tumn 1856 or, more likely, au­tumn 1858; and an­cient Ro­man Baal­bek in the Bekaa Val­ley, Le­banon, spring 1868. Pri­vately owned, the Horse­shoe Falls pic­ture resur­faced with lim­ited mod­ern dis­play ré­sumé in the Pa­cific North­west. Auc­tioned at Doyle’s, New York, on April 1, 2015, and pur­chased by the Detroit In­sti­tute of Arts, the pre­vi­ously pri­vately owned Baal­bek scene had had no re­cent vis­i­bil­ity.

Self-sufficient small pic­tures care­fully brushed-over pen­cil out­lines on heavy pa­per, Horse­shoe Falls (sub­se­quently mounted on can­vas) and View of

Baal­bek epit­o­mize what might be termed a priv­i­leged species within Church’s oeu­vre. Con­cep­tu­ally merg­ing eye­wit­ness sketch and fin­ished paint­ing, both works are also, aptly, panoramic in for­mat, the Baal­bek prospect slightly more ob­long than the Horse­shoe Falls view.the ear­lier pic­ture com­prises one ar­ti­fact, cylin­dri­cal Ter­rapin Tower (at left), and no hu­mans or an­i­mals. Em­pha­siz­ing ar­ti­facts an­cient and then-mod­ern, the later-date paint­ing in­cludes one vis­i­ble hu­man, a vine­yard at­ten­dant.the im­ages’ over­all aes­thet­ics me­di­ate while I would say ex­ceed­ing those by the best early-vic­to­rian topo­graph­i­cal land­scapists, no­tably, William H. Bartlett (1809-1854) and David Roberts (1796-1864).

I take it as a given that all artists’ works, in­clud­ing land­scape painters, are self-ref­er­en­tial. the present pic­tures, are that. af­ter re­turn­ing to his then cur­rent places of res­i­dence—the

Stu­dio Build­ing in Man­hat­tan, mid- to late-1850s; and his then-bur­geon­ing ru­ral home up­state, late 1860s, named “Olana”—he self-en­dorsed both, by fram­ing both. apropos how—and to whom—he might fur­ther have sig­ni­fied them are in­ter­est­ing ques­tions. On the rec­tos of most but not all his open-air oils framed for his pur­poses, he added some sort of writ­ten data. Tellingly, his for­mer home, Olana (hence­forth with­out quo­ta­tion marks), re­tains one framed, unin­scribed plein air oil study of Horse­shoe Falls, circa Septem­ber 1858 (about which, more, mo­men­tar­ily), kin to the present pic­ture of the sub­ject; and three framed Mediter­ranean oil stud­ies plein air in as­pect and com­pa­ra­ble in size and con­se­quence to the present Baal­bek scene.the ear­li­est of the lat­ter, an an­gled view of rock-cut tombs at Petra, in Jor­dan, March 1868, is in­scribed in oils, recto, F. E. Church / 68; the lat­est, a prospect of the Acrop­o­lis at Athens, April 1869, is in­scribed in oils, recto, Parthenon/69.the chrono­log­i­cal mid­dle “Eastern” work, is an unin­scribed oil-and-graphite close-up view of the prin­ci­pal tem­ple ru­ins at Baal­bek. De­scended through the Churches’ daugh­ter, Is­abel Char­lotte (“Downie”) Church (1871-1936), the last-cited paint­ing was re­turned to Olana on long-term loan dur­ing the 1990s. (Long be­fore that, in 1869, Church de­vel­oped a “cab­i­net”-size stu­dio paint­ing from it, as I will no­tice be­low.) I sur­mise that the artist con­ceived all four framed Mediter­ranean pic­tures in part for his wife, Is­abel (1836-1899), who toured the re­gion with him be­tween late 1867 and mid 1869 but did not ac­com­pany him ev­ery­where. Of the three de­picted lo­cales, she was by his side at Baal­bek, only. At that, the Petra and Athens oils en­cap­su­lated for her as well as for him­self his eye­wit­ness per­cep­tions of those his­tor­i­cal places. In ef­fect, both Baal­bek views de­clared, short-term when he painted them, here we are; and, af­ter­ward, long-term, there we were.

The three paint­ings of ar­chi­tec­tural themes just men­tioned at Olana are more broadly brushed than ei­ther of the present works. Hence, our best con­clu­sion per the two sharp-fo­cus pic­tures is that Church felt no need to an­no­tate those on their rec­tos. that both de­scended through younger gen­er­a­tion mem­bers of his fam­ily, as will be con­sid­ered fur­ther be­low, says much the same. those were likely his most thor­ough tran­scripts of the re­spec­tive sites. I sus­pect that for that rea­son, among oth­ers, he con­sulted as well as fondly re­mem­bered each for years af­ter­ward.

For the bal­ance of this es­say I will con­sider the two paint­ings cited in my ti­tle in terms of Church’s artis­tic in­vest­ments in them, and their prove­nances, each of which—the Ni­a­gara scene es­pe­cially—pro­vides re­veal­ing en­trée into his pri­vate life and fam­ily. My dis­cus­sion of Baal­bek has been fa­cil­i­tated by three vis­its

I made to Le­banon dur­ing 2016 and 2017, and by nu­mer­ous help­ful res­i­dents of the mod­ern-day town of Baal­bek and of Beirut.

Nowa­days Church is usu­ally be­lieved to have so­journed thrice at Ni­a­gara dur­ing 1856: first in

late win­ter (March), re­sult­ing in sev­eral ex­tant snow scene sketches, pen­cil and painted, of both falls (all at the Cooper-he­witt Na­tional De­sign Mu­seum, New York); next, an­tic­i­pated but which prob­a­bly did not take place, July; and last, ver­i­fi­ably, Septem­ber into Oc­to­ber, fo­cus­ing on the Cana­dian

Falls from the Cana­dian side. He did make a doc­u­mented, re­peat visit there two years later, late sum­mer-early au­tumn 1858. Al­to­gether, his 1856 trips there were prepa­ra­tions for one his best-known stu­dio paint­ings, Ni­a­gara, 1857 (for­merly, Cor­co­ran Gallery of Art, wash­ing­ton, D.C.; now Na­tional Gallery of Art, wash­ing­ton, D.C.), an eight-foot re­com­posed scene of the Cana­dian Falls viewed from above the cas­cade. Be­cause no ice en­ters the present work or the re­lated draw­ings by him (all, also, at the Cooper-he­witt Mu­seum), as well as be­cause of its Cana­dian Falls sub­ject, Horse­shoe Falls may—em­pha­sis on the word “may”— date from Septem­ber-oc­to­ber 1856. For now, no­tice the sim­i­lar treat­ments of the cas­cades and Tar­rapin Tower por­tions of an un­fin­ished, un-an­no­tated wa­ter­side oil study by Church of Horse­shoe Falls from a prox­i­mate van­tage point. a de­tailed draw­ing by him of Horse­shoe Falls and Tar­rapin Tower from a re­lated atop-the-ridge per­spec­tive, is in­scribed with a bit of verve: Oct 6th / - 1856. In the present wa­ter­side scene, Church min­i­mized re­pous­soir rocks and trees.

But did Church paint Horse­shoe Falls dur­ing 1858 rather than 1856? Through that im­age, he vis­ually walked on wa­ter across the Ni­a­gara River to the base of the Falls. In Oc­to­ber 1858, he ac­tu­ally did so, hir­ing The Maid of the Mist (with at least one un­named friend of his aboard) and hav­ing the cap­tain hold the ves­sel, quiv­er­ing, be­neath the roar­ing wa­ter masses for 40 to 45 min­utes, while he, Church, sketched. His be­neath-the-falls flota­tion of 1858 was valiant if not re­ally risky. Catch­ing the vo­lu­mi­nous aque­ous mo­tion closeup, his fullest ex­tant oil sketch made aboard the boat, re­sem­bles a de­tail of the present, shore­line, pic­ture.the Maid of the Mist sketch’s fore­short­en­ing is stronger, the tum­bling masses en­larged, and artist’s haste of han­dling more ob­vi­ous, but the van­tage points are al­lied. Fur­ther, cer­tain fea­tures of the present pic­ture, es­pe­cially the mist-cloaked boul­ders be­low Tar­rapin Tower, and the wa­ter flow of the falls, co­here bet­ter with the Olana oil, 1858, than with the un­fin­ished Cooper-he­witt wa­ter­side oil, of, pre­sum­ably, 1856. On bal­ance, I’d date Horse­shoe Falls to 1858 rather than 1856.

Church and his fel­low Ni­a­gara vis­i­tors of 1856, and fel­low Ni­a­gara vis­i­tors and Maid of the Mist pas­sen­ger of 1858, were soon Baal­bek a decade later, by con­trast, he closely, lin­ger­ingly as­so­ci­ated that lo­cale with his wife Is­abel. while ham­pered by ill­ness, she cher­ished the week-long ex­pe­ri­ence much as her hus­band did. At once mes­mer­iz­ing and med­i­ta­tive, febrile, parched, and freez­ing, the present Baal­bek scene ar­rays heroic, crum­bled hu­man his­tory wreathed by

green­ery be­neath dis­tant, sin­u­ous snowcreste­d moun­tains. Its Ori­en­tal­ist as­pect is most ev­i­dent in those slopes, nei­ther Euro­pean nor Western North Amer­i­can in their pro­files. By the 1860s Baal­bek was glob­ally, and, for Mr. Church, U.s. lo­cally famed. a trav­el­ing cor­re­spon­dent for a Hart­ford, Con­necti­cut—church’s birth­place—news­pa­per of mid-1867, about a year be­fore the Churches ar­rived there, was en­thralled by Baal­bek, terming it a “won­der and a marvel” in sun­light and moon­light alike, and the so-called Tem­ple of the Sun “the great­est ruin in the world.”

View of Baal­bek passed through one set of the artist’s in-laws: his youngest son, Louis Palmer Church (1870-1943), and Louis’s wife, Sally (1868-1964).

Sally Good (whom Louis af­fec­tion­ately called “Sal­lie”) and Louis were close years be­fore mar­ry­ing a few months af­ter his fa­ther died. af­ter­ward they lived at Olana, which Louis in­her­ited from his fa­ther.the cor­rect in­fer­ence is that Louis’s par­ents had had doubts about her. He, though, was struck and stuck by her. For her part, “sal­lie” Church served her de­ceased in-laws ex­traor­di­nar­ily, in two re­spects es­pe­cially. First, de­spite their prior re­luc­tance, she val­ued them, and Olana, which she and Louis main­tained much as it had been dur­ing the lat­ter years of his par­ents’ lives. Sec­ond, she sur­vived un­til 1964, age 96.That was long enough to af­ford, through de­vel­op­ing preser­va­tion­ist sen­si­bil­i­ties, cir­cum­stances fa­vor­able for sav­ing Olana. Just a few years ear­lier, those urges were less preva­lent, hence what turned out to be en­sur­ing dili­gence by an ag­gre­gate of mid-1960s pub­lic-spir­ited per­sons led by the late Dr. David C. Hunt­ing­ton, might not have suc­ceeded.

Horse­shoe Falls’s re­cent passed-down prove­nance cited F. E. Church and a son of the artist, “theodore Church,” i.e., Theodore Winthrop Church (18691914), be­lieved by its re­cent own­ers to have given the pic­ture to a “West Coast” man, in­di­cated as “Charles H. Kirtinger,” at the lat­ter’s wed­ding circa 1888. My re­search how­ever spec­i­fies the artist’s el­dest son, Fred­eric Joseph Church (1866-1914), while still youth­ful, as the in­volved Church fam­ily mem­ber. He, rather than the artist’s mid­dle son T.W. Church, set­tled in the Pa­cific North­west dur­ing the fall of 1887.At that, the re­cip­i­ent was Wilm­ing­ton, Delaware-born Charles H. Kit­tinger (1863-1901), or, prop­erly, his fi­ancée—whom we’ll ref­er­ence mo­men­tar­ily—dur­ing the year 1889 not 1888. C. H. Kit­tinger was by then a prom­i­nent Seat­tle, wash­ing­ton, res­i­dent, one whose brothers also lived nearby. Charles Kit­tinger did marry, at Seat­tle, on June 18, 1889. Judg­ing by ev­i­dence out­lined be­low, an 1889 nup­tial of­fer­ing of any kind from young Mr. F. J. Church to the slightly older Mr. C. H. Kit­tinger would seem im­plau­si­ble. Yet a pre-bridal Church-kit­tinger gift in­volv­ing the pic­ture and Kit­tinger’s fi­ancée at the time, did oc­cur, though in awk­ward cir­cum­stances; more on that and those, also presently.

As I will de­tail in my forth­com­ing cat­a­logue raisonné of Fred­eric Ed­win Church’s oil paint­ings, his son Fred­eric Joseph Church is, on his own, worth study and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. Hand­some, charis­matic, ath­letic, ar­tis­ti­cally ca­pa­ble, and a per­sis­tent pho­tog­ra­pher and oft-pub­lished writer, F. J. Church was, also, per­son­ally flawed and re­cur­rently ex­as­per­at­ing to peo­ple around him as well as to him­self. In 1894 a Church fam­ily friend cog­nizant of but sym­pa­thetic to F. J. Church’s de­fects, called him a “Black sheep.” a phrase of old ori­gins still in use, fits him fairly well, as well: star-crossed. A fall-down bounce-back chap for most of his rel­a­tively short life, he even­tu­ally be­came, af­ter his fa­ther, in toto both fa­vor­ably and ad­versely, the most pub­licly prom­i­nent mem­ber of the his­tor­i­cal Church fam­ily. Most in­trigu­ingly, dur­ing 1897 in the

Yukon un­der now-thinly-doc­u­mented cir­cum­stances, F. J. Church be­friended Jack Lon­don (1876-1916), the famed Amer­i­can au­thor. a decade later,

1907-08, Lon­don wrote and from Newyork pub­lished an il­lus­trated ad­ven­ture story hero­i­ciz­ing his for­mer Klondike com­rade.

Twenty years ear­lier, mean­while, Fred­eric Joseph Church fit­fully headed West, try­ing to make some­thing of him­self as, un­avoid­ably, a “son of Church, the fa­mous artist.” Doc­u­ments re­tained at Olana es­tab­lish that Charles H. Kit­tinger and Fred­eric J. Church be­came, from late 1887 for a year or so, com­pan­ion­able as­so­ciates at Seat­tle, the lat­ter an em­ployee of the for­mer. At that junc­ture Charles H. Kit­tinger co-owned a busi­ness called the Seat­tle Wharf Com­pany. Con­cur­rently F. J. Church was also linked to at least one fur­ther Seat­tle firm, the Cana­dian Pa­cific Nav­i­ga­tion Co., a ship­per; Charles Kit­tinger, too, had ad­di­tional lo­cal in­ter­ests. How­ever, by early 1889 a quar­rel oc­curred be­tween the two men, pre­cip­i­tated by F. J. Church’s be­ing caught with his hands in the com­pany till, and, sub­se­quently, los­ing the pur­loined funds to bad in­vest­ments. And not for the last time, ei­ther, re­gret­tably. an­other Seat­tle sce­nario in­volv­ing F. J. Church’s steal­ing a large sum from a com­pany where he was sub­se­quently em­ployed, and again be­ing dis­cov­ered hav­ing done so, again with­out rec­ti­fy­ing his short­ages, be­came sen­sa­tion­al­ist na­tional news­pa­per fod­der spread from Seat­tle, six years later, early Septem­ber 1895.That pub­lic, déjà-vu se­quence of events much dis­com­fited his par­ents back East, and, doubt­less, all their friends.

Charles H. Kit­tinger’s mar­riage, of June 18, 1889, to a some­what younger, vi­va­cious women orig­i­nally from Mon­treal, née Amy Whit­ney, is a tale in it­self. By the late 1880s she and one or more of her kin were liv­ing in Seat­tle. There, she re­port­edly was smit­ten by Kit­tinger’s dash­ing de­meanor.

The mar­riage did not en­dure. years af­ter­ward, Amy Whit­ney Kit­tinger, hav­ing sep­a­rated from her hus­band, caused the ro­mance-in­duced sui­cide of avi­en­nese no­ble­man atvi­ that time (De­cem­ber 1897), fol­low­ing a mi­nor act­ing ca­reer in New York, her lit­er­ally fa­tal at­trac­tive­ness prompted in­ter­na­tion­ally and na­tion­ally re-run newsprint re­ports head­lined “Lures

Men to Death” and phrases to that ef­fect. (Oh, the news cy­cles you’d prefer­ably avoid.) C. H. Kit­tinger him­self died at Ni­a­gara Falls (of all places) in 1901 age 38, of what was said to be heart dis­ease—i as­sume not an emo­tion­ally bro­ken heart.

Re­turn­ing to the Kit­tinger-whit­ney nup­tials at Seat­tle, ac­cord­ing to avail­able doc­u­men­ta­tion, those were ini­tially ex­pected ei­ther dur­ing May 1889, or, specif­i­cally, June 14. How­ever, on June 6, 1889, a huge fire rav­aged Seat­tle.

The con­fla­gra­tion dis­rupted ev­ery­thing re­gion­ally, in­clud­ing the Kit­tinger whit­ney cer­e­monies. years later

C. H. Kit­tinger was said to have be­haved valiantly dur­ing the blaze, and to have been in­jured phys­i­cally by it. In any case the wed­ding be­lat­edly did take place at Seat­tle on June 18, the cou­ple hav­ing ob­tained their mar­riage li­cense the pre­vi­ous day, June 17.The ear­ly­morn­ing fes­tiv­i­ties of June 18 were chron­i­cled by two short, cheery write­ups six days apart in the Seat­tle Postin­tel­li­gencer, a daily news­pa­per. Ac­cord­ing to both re­ports, the cou­ple had “qui­etly” wed at Ms. whit­ney’s grand­mother’s res­i­dence lo­cally, a few guests, only, at­tend­ing.the sec­ond Post-in­tel­li­gencer story, of June 24, in­cluded a lim­ited “among those present” list. F. J. Church was not named there.

He was far away at that time. Fam­ily cor­re­spon­dence May through July 1889 pre­served at Olana, puts him, sub­mis­sive and in­sol­vent, back East—new Hamp­shire, Con­necti­cut, and up­state Newyork—try­ing to make amends and strate­gize his Pa­cific North­west debts.the Seat­tle fire, hap­pen­ing while he was away, cost him fur­ther, long dis­tance. a lengthy let­ter pre­served at Olana, from Charles H. Kit­tinger to F. J. Church’s fa­ther, F. E. Church, penned at Seat­tle, Oc­to­ber 16, 1889, is per­ti­nent. It be­liev­ably out­lines Charles H. Kit­tinger’s and Fred­eric J. Church’s prior close, cor­dial re­la­tion­ship, and ac­crued prob­lems, pri­mar­ily mone­tary. In the let­ter C. H. Kit­tinger told F. E. Church that his son, F. J. Church, owed him, C. H. Kit­tinger, about $7,000, a huge sum. Kit­tinger didn’t there re­fer to the city fire, his own wed­ding midyear, or re­cent ef­forts by F. J. Church to mend with his for­mer boss. (In ex­tant doc­u­ments, F. J. Church men­tioned small amounts of money sent to Seat­tle, and the sale of a wagon he owned, un­dam­aged by the fire, in Seat­tle.)

But Kit­tinger added, cor­rectly, that F. J. Church had gone “east” “about May just past” (i.e. 1889), and had since re­turned, with­out, how­ever, Kit­tinger’s and F. J. Church’s reac­quaint­ing. Nor did Kit­tinger wish that they meet, al­though F. J. Church sought a re­union. Still hop­ing that the el­der Church might as­sist him fi­nan­cially, Kit­tinger said in the same let­ter that he still liked F. J. Church; that he wished F. J. Church to avoid “pen­i­ten­tiary;” that

F. J. Church would prob­a­bly suc­ceed vo­ca­tion­ally once he re­solved his own predica­ments; but also that he, Kit­tinger, could not abide re-con­nect­ing him­self with F. J. Church.

While pur­posely ami­able to­ward F. E. Church, the lan­guage used by Charles H. Kit­tinger on Oc­to­ber 16, 1889, makes the younger men’s prior Seat­tle re­la­tion­ship sound like that be­tween a sur­ro­gate older brother, him­self, and an erst­while younger brother, Fred­eric J. Church. Dur­ing 1887 to 1888, C. H. Kit­tinger was then in his mid-20s,

F. J. Church, his early 20s. their three­year age dif­fer­ence, would have made a dif­fer­ence. Grow­ing up at Olana—his prior si­b­lings, a brother and a sis­ter, hav­ing, trag­i­cally, died of dis­ease dur­ing March 1865—F. J. Church had been the de facto leader of the fam­ily’s younger gen­er­a­tion.

As men­tioned, mid-1889, F. J.

Church was, per­force, bi­coastal. Circa 1890, his brothers and sis­ter were mov­ing around, too. Louis Church toured Europe mid-1889—at a young age, leav­ing his par­ents and si­b­lings be­hind.the fol­low­ing year, 1890, their sis­ter, Is­abel Char­lotte Church, trav­eled with her par­ents to and from Mex­ico. Later that decade, Louis also ac­com­pa­nied F. E. Church to and in Mex­ico three times, moun­tain climb­ing while his lame fa­ther re­mained ho­tel or ha­cienda-bound. I know lit­tle about

Theodore Winthrop Church’s early trav­els, be­sides those back and forth to Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity, where he was a stu­dent, class of 1891 (F. J. Church had al­ready ma­tric­u­lated there, with­out grad­u­at­ing). In­ter­est­ingly, an ex­tant, dis­sem­bling note, at Olana, by Fred­eric Joseph Church ad­dressed to his “sin­cere fr iend” “Charly”—kit­tinger—in

Seat­tle, and writ­ten June 20, 1889, from Kin­der­hook, New York, men­tioned the pos­si­bil­ity of his bring­ing “my el­dest brother”—that would be Theodore— ”with me” to Seat­tle. I can­not be­lieve F. E. Church would have per­mit­ted that op­tion. Ev­i­dently he didn’t. a re­gional news re­port of mid-july 1889 lists Fred­eric Ed­win Church and Theodore W. Church as guests at Catskill Moun­tain House. Given the thorny in­ternecine cir­cum­stances of that spring and sum­mer, I can imag­ine the fa­ther telling his son Theodore, re­turned home that sum­mer from Prince­ton, some­thing like: “let’s get out of the house, you and me, find some fresh air, and dis­cuss—your way­ward older brother, F. J., and how you might learn from and avoid his mis­be­hav­iors.” Which brings me to the defin­ing doc­u­ment of Horse­shoe Falls’s prove­nance. From Seat­tle on April 4, 1892, Charles H. Kit­tinger re-con­tacted F. E. Church by let­ter; that mis­sive, is at Olana. By then, Kit­tinger, bank­rupt from cas­caded losses caused by the Seat­tle fire, and verg­ing his wife’s re­turn­ing with their in­fant child “to her fam­ily un­til I can re­cover my­self,” asked the artist’s sus­te­nance:

“. . .When Fred [F. J. Church] was leav­ing Seat­tle, he gave Mrs. Kit­tinger for her wed­ding present, two pic­tures, a ‘Sal­va­tor Rosa’ and a smal [sic] ‘Ni­a­gara’, said to be painted by you. while I al­lowed her to ac­cept them, still I told Fred I would re­al­ize on them as soon as pos­si­ble, and ap­ply pro­ceeds to his in­debt­ed­ness. I was then worth $50,000. To­day I have noth­ing and write to you to ob­tain value of pic­tures and ev­i­dences of gen­uine­ness. will you please give this mat­ter your care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion be­ing as­sured by me of the fact that I saved Fred from pub­lic dis­grace.”

The fa­ther’s re­ply is un­traced; the “Sal­va­tor Rosa” is uniden­ti­fied.

One of two lengthy re­ports from

Seat­tle news­pa­pers of sum­mer 1895 con­cern­ing F. J. Church’s re­peat fi­nan­cial scrapes of that pe­riod, re­ferred to “cer­tain valuable pic­tures from his fa­ther’s brush,” none par­tic­u­lar­ized, “which had been given him [and which] went for debts.” that state­ment cor­rob­o­rates C. H. Kit­tinger’s of

April 1892, to the ef­fect that Fred­eric Joseph Church car­ried with him a few pic­to­rial works of his fa­ther’s au­thor­ship/own­er­ship as he, F. J. Church, prowled the Mid­west and

West dur­ing the late 1880s into the 1890s. (How he ob­tained them, re­mains un­clear.) His youngest brother, Louis, whom Fred­eric Ed­win came to re­gard as the most re­li­able of his sons, and who wrapped up his de­ceased brothers’ af­fairs af­ter both died pre­ma­turely dur­ing 1914, knew these mat­ters through the mid- and late 19-teens bet­ter than he would have pre­ferred. Dur­ing 1916 and 1917 Louis Palmer Church tried to set­tle post-mortem le­gal and in­her­i­tance ques­tions con­cern­ing Fred­eric Joseph that the same pe­riod L. P. Church gave the Cooper In­sti­tute, pre­de­ces­sor of the Cooper-he­witt Mu­seum, the mas­sive ar­chive of his fa­ther’s sketches that has come down to us.

By them­selves, Fred­eric Joseph Church’s fur­ther pere­gri­na­tions, mishaps, and bona fide ac­com­plish­ments in the North­west of the late 1880s and 90s, com­prise a com­pelling saga—be­sides his early

20th cen­tury ex­pe­ri­ences in Hawaii, where he moved in De­cem­ber 1898. In 1897 he briefly ven­tured to they ukon, part­ner­ing with Jack Lon­don, as be­fore noted. Dur­ing the late 1890s, from the East Coast where he had re­set­tled, Charles H. Kit­tinger fi­nan­cially spec­u­lated in they ukon, as well. those mu­tual, riches-seek­ing tropes—and, by then, var­i­ously rue­ful mem­o­ries of prior wives—might have but prob­a­bly did not stir re-ac­quain­tance be­tween F. J. Church and C. H. Kit­tinger. Re­turn­ing to View of Baal­bek, Fred­eric E. Church and Is­abel Church mem­o­rably vis­ited that lo­cale dur­ing May 1868. Sub­se­quently he did not paint topo­graph­i­cal stu­dio pic­tures of those ru­ins, but he re­peat­edly ar­tis­ti­cally re­it­er­ated as­pects of them, par­tic­u­larly in both of his largest ru­ins capricci of the 1870s, Syria by the Sea (1873), and The Aegean Sea (circa 1878), and es­pe­cially in his sec­ond mid-size stu­dio capric­cio (1869), painted in Rome. In the last-cited work, Church’s first “Eastern” can­vas shown in the U.S.— at the Goupil-knoedler Gallery, in Man­hat­tan, Novem­ber 1869 to circa Jan­uary 1870—the left fore­ground el­e­ments seem Baal­bekian, and, in­deed, are.the three-foot paint­ing’s cal­cu­lated Baal­bekian char­ac­ter is ev­i­denced prin­ci­pally in two re­spects. First and fore­most is Church’s framed on-site Baal­bek oil study, May 1868, afore­men­tioned, look­ing east-north­east from the north­west cor­ner of the up­per site plat­form. Months later for the stu­dio paint­ing, us­ing the same per­spec­tive align­ment, Church distilled the Jupiter tem­ple’s six big columns de­picted in his oil study to its near­est three, while dra­ma­tiz­ing fac­tual late af­ter­noon light­ing as he shuf­fled se­lect de­tails. For ex­am­ple, the tiny tri­an­gu­lar shadow cast atop the stu­dio pic­ture’s far­thest—third— col­umn by its Corinthian cap­i­tal, he re­peated from the shadow de­picted atop the far­thest—sixth—col­umn in the oil study. Se­condly, prior to its pub­lic de­but, the 1869 can­vas alighted at Church’s Man­hat­tan stu­dio in the Stu­dio Build­ing, then co-habited by his col­league Martin John­son Heade. there, Heade prob­a­bly in­ter­pret­ing, a sub­ur­ban Newyork jour­nal­ist voiced it:

“The only pic­ture by Mr. Church we saw—and which will be placed on ex­hi­bi­tion at Goupil’s Gallery dur­ing the en­su­ing week—is an ef­fec­tive com­po­si­tion of Anti-le­banon scenery, made up from ma­te­ri­als gath­ered in the Le­banon val­ley, in Syria.the ru­ins de­picted are a por­tion of the great ru­ins of Baal­bec, but are not taken from an ac­tual view.the last rays of the set­ting sun are gild­ing the tops of three columns—a frag­ment of the great Tem­ple of the Sun which once stood in this his­tor­i­cal val­ley. Over the low

moun­tains range, near the right side of the pic­ture, is seen the sil­very glow which pre­cedes the ris­ing of the moon. In the left fore­ground rests a shat­tered map of entab­la­ture, and across an arched bridge, in the fall­ing twi­light, comes a sin­gle camel, bear­ing its soli­tary rider.” Look­ing ap­prox­i­mately west­north­west from a slightly el­e­vated po­si­tion sev­eral hun­dred yards east south­east of the city’s old acrop­o­lis, the Detroit Baal­bek tran­script sur­veys nearby dry acreage par­ti­tioned with snaky low walls, and, far­ther, seg­ments of in­hab­ited Baal­bek—com­pris­ing, in Church’s day, about one hun­dred houses.the chief mid-dis­tance ed­i­fi­cial frag­ments are, at mid­dle left, six tall Corinthian columns and con­nect­ing entab­la­tures of the “Great Tem­ple”

(as it was then known; now called a Tem­ple of Jupiter), and, far­ther right and nearer on a lower plat­form, a ro­bust, for­mer peripteral Corinthian struc­ture var­i­ously des­ig­nated in the 19th cen­tury a “Tem­ple of Jupiter,” “tem­ple of the Sun,” or, sim­ply, “Tem­ple of Baal.” Loos­ened by earth­quake in the re­mote past, a cylin­der of one of the lat­ter’s de­tached columns leans against its south­ern wall, as it does to­day. (Presently iden­ti­fied as a tem­ple of Bac­chus, sev­eral of its fallen en­cir­cling up­rights have been re-erected in re­cent years). The ar­chi­tec­tural rem­nants are wreathed with green­ery and back­dropped by snow-crested Le­banese moun­tains ex­tend­ing to­ward the left (north­west). Trav­el­ing through the Holy Land with their mother-in-law and small son dur­ing early 1868, the mar­ried Churches—“mama” and “the baby,” i.e., Fred­eric Joseph Church (as Mrs. Church re­ferred to them in an ex­tant di­ary she car­ried with her) re­main­ing at Beirut—pro­ceeded to­ward dis­tant des­ti­na­tions via Jerusalem to Da­m­as­cus. thence, late April 1868, ac­com­pa­nied by a few Euro-amer­i­can men in­clud­ing a pho­tog­ra­pher from the Bergheim fam­ily, and es­corted by an Arab guide and “armed guard,” they headed by mule and camel car­a­van for the earth­quake-prone “giant cities of Bashan”—is­abel’s Church’s re-quoted phrase, bor­rowed from the ti­tle of an oft-reprinted Bri­tish book (1865, et cetera) by Rev­erend Josias Les­lie Porter (1823-1889); the Churches owned an 1867 Newyork edi­tion. There, Porter in­tro­duced “Bashan,” a Bib­li­cal name as­so­ci­ated with the re­gion, by terming it “the land of sa­cred ro­mance.”

The Churches had planned to visit the spa­cious Ro­man ru­ins at desert Palmyra in present-day Syria, be­fore pro­ceed­ing to an­cient Baal­bek in the fer­tile Bekaa val­ley of Le­banon. Old Palmyra had staged events ro­man­ti­cized dur­ing the 19th cen­tury, es­pe­cially in­volv­ing its leg­endary Queen, Zeno­bia (third cen­tury A.D.). Mr. Church was in­ter­ested in Zeno­bia; Rev­erend Porter was more im­pressed with Palmyra than Baal­bek.

But Baal­bek, des­ig­nated “He­liopo­lis”—“city of the Sun”— by Alexan­der the Great and in some 19th-cen­tury lit­er­a­ture, was nei­ther sub­sti­tute nor con­so­la­tion. It was in­stead it­self a ma­jor goal of Church’s Near Eastern tour, com­pa­ra­ble to the “stony moun­tains of Ara­bia Pe­trea” and “val­ley of Petra” in present-day Jor­dan. Un­ac­com­pa­nied by fam­ily mem­bers, Church boldly had jour­neyed by boat and by don­key and camel con­voy to and from Petra via Jerusalem, Gaza, Beirut, and Jaffa dur­ing Fe­bru­ary and

March 1868. His next ex­pe­di­tionary ex­cur­sion af­ter that, was to Baal­ English guide­book (1868) by Rev­erend Porter to the Near East that the Churches car­ried with them, re­ferred to Baal­bek’s “world-wide celebrity” and “mag­nif­i­cence,” which have “ex­cited the won­der and ad­mi­ra­tion of ev­ery trav­eller who has been priv­i­leged to visit it;” the in­tri­ca­cies of the build­ings’ “sculp­tured friezes and door­ways;” and their colos­sal “sub­struc­tures.” Other Euro-amer­i­can writ­ers of the nine­teenth cen­tury and ear­lier ru­mi­nated on Baal­bek’s “enor­mous mag­ni­tude and un­par­al­leled rich­ness;” its lat­ter-day de­cay; and its ele­giac his­tor­i­cal elu­sive­ness, akin, in some re­spects, to that of Stone­henge in Eng­land.

In her tour di­ary, May 1868, Is­abel Church de­voted sev­eral para­graphs to Baal­bek. Stay­ing in an up­per room of a nearby di­lap­i­dated cas­tle as sight­seer groups came and went, she rode a camel for the first time (also sketched by her hus­band; the sketch it­self is uniden­ti­fied), ap­prov­ingly sur­veyed the city ru­ins and “the no­ble Le­banon [moun­tains],” oc­ca­sion­ally feared for her and his safeties, and be­came ill.

But less sick than the pho­tog­ra­pher ac­com­pa­ny­ing them, who as a re­sult departed that she con­sid­ered her­self stal­wart, as did her spouse, who roamed freely and sketched as­sid­u­ously 24/7 or al­most—in­clud­ing by moon­light—through­out the site, es­pe­cially dur­ing their ini­tial two days there, May 6 and 7. Ap­proach­ing the site, Church re­peat­edly sketched the dis­tinc­tive snow-striped slopes of what he termed “Mount Le­banon,” ac­tu­ally the in­land gra­di­ent of Mount San­nine, in win­ter an imposing snow sum­mit loom­ing north of Beirut, from where Church also sketched it

A let­ter writ­ten by Church from Ber­cht­es­gaden, Ger­many, to an un­named Philadel­phian, per­haps the col­lec­tor James Claghorn (1817-1884), in mid-1868, and pub­lished by a Philadel­phia news­pa­per Fe­bru­ary 1869 and nu­mer­ously U.s.-press reprinted there­after, con­tains the artist’s fullest ex­tant com­men­tary about Baal­bek. There, Church wrote, in part: “i took my wife to Bashan. She is the first lady who has been there, and we saw the won­der­ful re­mains of the giant cities, and got back alive and un­hurt. I lin­gered around Baal­beck [sic] for eight days, and re­gret­ted that it was not eight weeks. as­tound­ing are those ru­ins, and beau­ti­fully si­t­u­ated. Le­banon, snow-streaked in front—a beau­ti­ful plain striped with grain-fields. the city rises from a mass of ver­dure and run­ning wa­ter . . .”The other framed on-site Baal­bek pic­ture by Church, above­men­tioned, un­der­scores that in­ter­pre­ta­tion.the cho­sen coin de vue an al­lur­ing late af­ter­noon pho­tog­ra­phers’ gath­er­ing place nowa­days, Church’s snap­shot-like de­pic­tion rec­ol­lects prior pub­lished il­lus­tra­tions of the same ru­ins, in­clud­ing one ac­com­pa­ny­ing early edi­tions of Thom­son’s The Land and the Book. there, lo­cal male fig­ures

roam be­neath the Tem­ples of Jupiter and Bac­chus. In Church’s tran­script, a lone woman wear­ing dark red garb and a head­scarf stands be­fore the Tem­ple of Jupiter on the up­per plat­form, fac­ing the artist. Since that pic­ture re­turned to Olana, my­self, the for­mer site man­ager, the late James A. Ryan, and cu­ra­tors there have as­sumed that the de­picted woman is Is­abel Church.

Be­sides his above-quoted let­ter, Fred­eric Church’s ex­tant framed and un­framed sketches ap­proach­ing and at Baal­bek (all but two at the Coop­er­he­witt Mu­seum), and his col­lected pho­to­graphs of the site (all at Olana), tes­tify to his per­cep­ Baal­bek, we should be aware, much has changed since his day. In 1868, as had prior trav­el­ers, he could still study chis­eled frag­ments where they’d fallen over the mil­len­nia, in­clud­ing within the Bac­chus Tem­ple, site of his finest plein air ruin tran­script, close by to where pho­tog­ra­phers had al­ready recorded the same mélange and would again dur­ing the 1870s and 1880s. Start­ing to­ward the end of the 19th cen­tury, how­ever, tour op­er­a­tors opened new town ho­tels, and (led by Kaiser Wil­helm II’S visit to the site in 1898) gen­er­a­tions of ar­chae­ol­o­gists reg­u­lar­ized Baal­bek’s plat­forms and (a cen­tury later, in

1998) in­stalled a com­modi­ous on-site mu­seum. Its floor cleared of de­bris, the Bac­chus Tem­ple nowa­days hosts sum­mer­time con­certs.

With Church’s Detroit Baal­bek panorama, a thor­ough tran­script, the cho­sen van­tage point, mid-morn­ing sun­light, clear at­mos­phere, and de­tails near and far, be­speak a frame of mind at once in­quis­i­tive, an­a­lyt­i­cal, ro­man­tic, and aes­thet­i­cally af­fir­ma­tive. Since the late

17th cen­tury, draw­ings, prints, and, lat­terly, pho­to­graphs in panoramic for­mats were en­demic to Euro-amer­i­can per­cep­tions of both ru­ined Palmyra and ru­ined Baal­bek. Com­pared to Palmyra, Baal­bek, while or­ches­trally com­pact (so to speak), was, and is to­day, in­stru­men­tally big­ger and bolder. Over­view desert Palmyrean breadth is dif­fuse and des­ic­cated; over­view moun­tain val­ley Baal­bekian breadth is, for the most part, lu­cid, and, in spring­time, as Church re­ported, botan­i­cally fer­tile; a rivulet rushes through the area. By what amounted to long­stand­ing il­lus­tra­tor-trav­el­ers’ con­sen­sus—no­tably, Henry Maun­drell (1697/1703; fur­ther edi­tions to the mid19th cen­tury), Robert Wood (1757; 1827), David Roberts (1843-1849; 1855); the pho­tog­ra­pher Fran­cis Bed­ford (1862); and the ge­og­ra­pher Sir Charles Wil­son and his ac­com­pa­ny­ing artists (1881/circa 1882)—Baal­bek was best com­pre­hended from the south, two of the site’s three ma­jor tem­ples defin­ing the scene.

(The third note­wor­thy ruin, a smaller polyg­o­nal tem­ple—lately re­stored— be­lieved to have been ded­i­cated tovenus, in which Church was also in­ter­ested, stands a short dis­tance south­east of the main precinct.) The “snow-streaked” Le­banese moun­tains are shown in sev­eral fore­run­ners’ views.

Hence he was agree­ing with prece­dent while in­ves­ti­gat­ing, and, it turned out, self-con­cur­ring. In sitù he de­lin­eated at least three Baal­bek panora­mas from view­points near one an­other: the present oil, un­dated, a morn­ing view; and two large graphite and gouache draw­ings at the Cooper-he­witt Mu­seum.the draw­ings, af­ter­noon and morn­ing scenes, re­spec­tively, are in­scribed six days apart: the wan­ing sun­lit hours of his ar­rival day there, May 6, 1868; and mid-morn­ing of nearly his last, May 12, 1868.The lat­ter, a two-sheet ex­panse seen from slightly far­ther east and piv­oted more north­ward than Church’s other two tran­scripts, em­pha­sizes the splayed, rub­ble-strewn “Ro­man Quarry” a mile south­west of the prin­ci­pal tem­ples site. Not­with­stand­ing Church’s on-sheet ver­bal cor­rec­tive of his draw­ing’s mis­align­ment of fore­ground ex­ca­va­tion and dis­tant site, no ex­ist­ing his­tor­i­cal pho­to­graph, pub­lished, or hand-drawn de­lin­eation matches his for ac­cu­racy or ef­fect. His dis­tinctly in­cludes, to­ward lower left, an un­fin­ished, aban­doned build­ing block of renowned am­pli­tude. Known to trav­el­ers as “the great stone” and lo­cally as the “mono­lith,” “stone of Midi,” and “Hajr al Hu˘ bla” (“stone of the preg­nant woman”), the colos­sal slab by it­self denoted ru­ined Baal­bek, and still does so. to­day, hav­ing ben­e­fited from a dot­ing care­taker and re­cent up­grades in vis­i­tor ac­ces­si­bil­ity, the ac­tual stone re­tains breath­ing space, while much of the quarry’s orig­i­nal acreage has been par­ti­tioned by roads, fences and rail­ings, small build­ings, and a Chris­tian ceme­tery. In re­cent times two even larger un­fin­ished build­ing stones have been un­earthed at the quarry. Rerewind­ing to Church’s day, william M. Thom­son, mes­mer­ized by Baal­bek’s grandeur, pic­tured “the great stone” in The Land and the Book. A gen­er­a­tion later, fol­low­ing Thom­son, Charles Wil­son (ca. 1881) re-ac­corded “Hajr al Hu˘ bla” a vi­gnette il­lus­tra­tion—the tem­ple rem­nants ris­ing be­yond— and, pages ear­lier, an ef­fu­sive ver­bal com­men­tary, terming it “the won­der of ar­chi­tects, schol­ars, and prac­ti­cal men from all parts of the world.” El­iz­a­beth Run­dle Charles, afore­men­tioned (1862), was en­tranced:

. . .Why was it, we asked our­selves, that this frag­ment of un­fin­ished work im­pressed us more, and seemed to bring the past nearer than all the mar­vel­lous fin­ished struc­tures we had been sur­vey­ing in the morn­ing? Was it not be­cause in such in­ter­rupted work you seem to read the past, not in the per­fect, but in the present tense; in the ac­tive, not in the pas­sive voice; not in its stately mon­u­men­tal re­pose, but in its ev­ery­day toil? . . .That one stone in the quarry of Baal­bec seemed to bring us more in the pres­ence of the liv­ing men of its past gen­er­a­tions, and stir our minds with more spec­u­la­tion as to their his­tory, than all its mag­nif­i­cent tem­ples.

Fred­eric E. Church (1826-1900), Horse­shoe Falls, 1856 or 1858. Oil and graphite on pa­per laid down on can­vas, 9½ x 17½ in. Pri­vate col­lec­tion.

Fred­eric Joseph Church (1866-1914), ca. 1885. Al­bu­men print, 2½ x 4 in. New York State Of­fice of Parks, Recrea­tion, and His­toric Preser­va­tion, Olana State His­toric Site, Ta­conic Re­gion.

Fred­eric E. Church (1826-1900), View of Baal­bek, 1868. Oil and graphite on heavy card, 9½ x 20 in. Detroit In­sti­tute of Arts. Photo cour­tesy of Doyle, New York.

Fred­eric E. Church (1826-1900), Study for ‘Un­der ‘Ni­a­gara’, 1858. Oil and graphite on pa­per mounted on can­vas, 11¾ x 17½ in. New York State Of­fice of Parks, Recrea­tion, and His­toric Preser­va­tion, Olana State His­toric Site, Ta­conic Re­gion, OL.1981.51A...

Fred­eric E. Church (1826-1900), The Urn Tomb, Silk Tomb, and Corinthian Tomb, Petra, 1868. Oil and graphite on pa­per mounted on can­vas, 13 x 201⁄8 in. New York State Of­fice of Parks, Recrea­tion, and His­toric Preser­va­tion, Olana State His­toric Site,...

Fred­eric E. Church (1826-1900), Ru­ins of Baal­bek, May 1868. Oil and graphite on pa­per, mounted on can­vas, 13 x 20 in. Olana State His­toric Site, Of­fice of Parks, Recrea­tion and His­toric Preser­va­tion, Es­tate of Pre­ston Haskell.

Fred­eric E. Church (1826-1900), Ni­a­gara, 1857. Oil on can­vas, 42½ x 90½ in. Na­tional Gallery of Art, Wash­ing­ton, D.C..

Fred­eric E. Church (1826-1900), The Parthenon and the Acrop­o­lis, Athens, 1869. Oil and graphite on pa­per mounted on can­vas, 11½ x 20¼ in. New York State Of­fice of Parks, Recrea­tion, and His­toric Preser­va­tion, Olana State His­toric Site, Ta­conic Re­gion,...

Fred­eric E. Church (1826-1900), Horse­shoe Falls, Ni­a­gara, from the Cana­dian Side, ca. 1856. Oil and graphite on pa­per­board, 119⁄16 x 17½ in. Cooper-he­witt Na­tional De­sign Mu­seum, Smithsonia­n In­sti­tu­tion, New York, Gift of Louis P. Church, 1917,...

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