In his New York studio, Church painted this spectacular view of a blazing sunset over wilderness near Mount Katahdin in Maine, which he had sketched during a visit nearly two years earlier. Although Church often extolled the grandeur of pristine American landscape in his work, this painting appears to have additional overtones. Created on the eve of the Civil War, the painting's subject can be interpreted as symbolically evoking the coming conflagration.
Church's considerable technical skills and clever showmanship contributed to his fame as the premier artist of his generation. Rather than debut this painting in an annual exhibition with works by other artists as was the custom, Church instead exhibited it by itself at a prestigious art gallery. Coaxed by advance publicity and highly favorable press reviews, several hundred spectators flocked to admire it during its seven-week run.
Goupil's Gallery, New York, June 1860.New York, Avery's Gallery, (1866). Also shown at Dusseldorf Gallery, New York, 1866. Both exhibitions held in connection with auction, according to The Round Table, 10 March 1866. (See reference above.)New Haven, Connecticut, Yale College, Second Annual Exhibition of the Yale School of the Fine Arts, Founded as a Department of Yale College by the Late Augustus Russell Street of New Haven, Conn., (1870), no. 114, listed as the property of John T. Johnston.New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art and National Academy of Design, The New York Centennial Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Selected from the Private Art Galleries, (1876), no. 125, listed as being part of J. T. Johnston's collection. New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Paintings by Frederic E. Church, N. A., (28 May to 15 October1900), illustrated in catalogue as plate 6.Baltimore, The Municipal Art Society of Baltimore, Art Loan Exhibition, (1902), no. 89, listed as the property of Miss Garrett.Washington, D. C., National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Frederic Edwin Church, (12 February to 13 March 1966), no. 44; E18/ C56 W319. Exhibition traveled to the Albany Institute of History and Art (30 March through 30 April 1966), and, without Twilight in the Wilderness, to M. Knoedler and Company, New York (1 June through 30 June 1966). New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Art of the United States: 1670-1966, (28 September to 27 November, 1966), no. 48, brief comments about the color in Twilight in the Wilderness by Lloyd Goodrich, p. 25, catalogue.Washington, D. C., The National Endowment for the Arts with the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Wilderness, (9 October to 14 November 1971), no. 69.Buffalo, New York, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Heritage and Horizon: American Painting 1776-1976, (6 March to 11 April 1976), no. 10. Exhibition traveled to the Detroit Institute of Arts (5 May through 13 June 1976), The Toledo Museum of Art (4 July through 15 August 1976), and the Cleveland Museum of Art, (8 September through 10 October 1976). Washington, D. C., National Gallery of Art, American Light: The Luminist Movement, 1850-1875, (10 February through 15 June 1980), no. 204; includes the following remarks: in "Design and Measurement in Luminist Art", Lisa Andrus discusses the composition of and quality of light in Twilight in the Wilderness, p.36; Earl A. Powell's "Luminism and the American Sublime" describes Church's use of cadmium colors to achieve brilliant light in many of his paintings, including Twilight in the Wilderness; and Twilight's role in the development of the 19th century ideal of the sublime, p. 92; "Church and Luminism: Light for America's Elect" by David C. Huntington describes how Church's technique in Twilight in the Wilderness erases all evidence of the artist's touch, p. 170, illus. 167.Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, A New World: Masterpieces of American Painting, 1760- 1910, (7 September through 13 November 1983), no. 39. Also traveled to The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C. (7 December 1983- 12 February 1984) and, without Twilight in the Wilderness, to Grand Palais, Paris (16 March- 11 June 1984).New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School, (4 October 1987 through 3 January 1988), pp.45, 251-4.Berlin, Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Nationalgalerie, Orangerie des Schlosses Charlottenburg, Bilder Aus des Neuen Welt: Amerikanische Malerei des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts, (22 November 1988 through 5 February 1989), no. 15. Exhibition traveled to Kunsthaus Zurich, (3 March - 15 May 1989).Washington, D. C., National Gallery of Art, Frederic Edwin Church, (8 October 1989 to 28 January 1990), no. 34, catalogue text by Franklin Kelly, pp. 58-59, 61-62, illus. p. 110, cat. 34.Vienna, Osterreichischen Galerie Belvedere, America: Die Neue Welt in Bildern des 19 Jahrunderts, (17 March through 20 June 1999), no. 45.London, The Ta
|1860-1864||William T. Walters [1820-1894], Baltimore, MD, consigned to Samuel Putnam Avery for sale at Henry H. Leeds and Co.1|
|1864||(Henry H. Leeds and Co., New York, NY, Feb. 12-13, 1864)2|
|1864-1866||(Samuel Putnam Avery [1822-1904], New York, NY)3|
|1866||(Leeds and Minor at Old Dusseldorf Gallery, New York, NY, March 9, 1866, no. 174, sold to John Taylor Johnston)4|
|1866-1876||John Taylor Johnston [1820-1893], New York, NY|
|1876||(Chickering Hall, John Taylor Johnston sale, Dec. 19-22, 1876, sold to John Work Garrett?)5|
|1876-probably 1884||John Work Garrett [1820-1884], Baltimore, MD, by descent to his daughter, Mary E. Garrett?|
|Probably 1884-at least 1902||Mary E. Garrett [1854-1909], Baltimore, MD, sold to Robert de Forest6|
|After 1902-1931||Robert de Forest [1848-1931], Parkers Point, CT, by descent to his brother, Lockwood de Forest7|
|1931-1932||Lockwood de Forest [1850-1932], Santa Barbara, CA, by descent to his son, Alfred Victor de Forest|
|1932-1945||Alfred Victor de Forest [1888-1945], Marlborough, NH, by descent to his son, Taber de Forest|
|1945-early 1960s||Taber de Forest, Maine, sold to David McCoy|
|Early 1960s||David McCoy, Lyme, CT, sold to Robert Weimann|
|1962 or 1963-1965||Robert Weimann, Ansonia, CT, sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art|
|1965-||The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio|
1Walters, a prominent collector and namesake of the Walters Art Museum, commissioned the painting from Church in 1860.
2Consigned to Samuel Putnam Avery by Walters, the painting seems to have been bought in by Avery at this sale and then put up for auction again in 1866.
3After likely buying in the painting at the 1864 auction, Avery, a close associate of Walters, offered it for sale again in 1866.
4This auction included “the entire collection of the foreign oil and water color paintings, consigned to Samuel P. Avery," ”to which will be added the celebrated picture by F.E. Church, Twilight in the Wilderness." As in the 1864 auction, here, too, Walters consigned the painting to Avery for sale.
5According to Emily de Forest, Johnston's daughter and Robert de Forest's wife, the painting was purchased at this sale by Mary Garrett. Lockwood de Forest, Robert's brother, however, maintains it was purchased by John Work Garrett and then descended to his daughter, Mary.
6Mary Garrett was a close friend of the de Forests.
7According to Robert's wife, Emily, he purchased the painting from Mary Garrett.
“Art Notes,” The Round Table 3 (March 10, 1866): 151.
"Art Exhibitions and Sales," The Nation 2 (March 15, 1866): 346.
"Art Exhibitions and Sales,” The Nation 2 (March 15, 1866): 346.
"Art Notes," The Round Table 3 (March 10, 1866): 151.
"Mr. Church's Last Picture," New York Times (Jun. 7, 1860).
Auction Sales,” New York Times (March 6, 1866): 6.
Eleanor Harvey, email to Victoria Sears Goldman, April 8, 2013, in CMA curatorial file.
Emily de Forest, letter to Lockwood de Forest, Sept. 10, 1931, in CMA curatorial file.
Franklin W. Kelly, letter to William S. Talbot, May 5, 1982, in CMA curatorial file.
Franklin W. Kelly, letter to William S. Talbot, Oct. 21, 1982, in CMA curatorial file.
Harold Kirker, letter to Sherman Lee, July 10, 1969, in CMA curatorial file.
Harold Kirker, letter to William S. Talbot, Sept. 18, 1969, in CMA curatorial file.
James H. Dempsey, Jr., letter to Marion de Forest, June 14, 1982, in CMA curatorial file.
Lockwood de Forest, letter to Emily de Forest, Sept. 16, 1931, in CMA curatorial file.
Marion de Forest, letter to James H. Dempsey, Jr., June 6, 1982, in CMA curatorial file.
New York Herald (June 8, 1860): 10.
Sander, Kathleen Waters. Mary Elizabeth Garrett: Society and Philanthropy in the Gilded Age. Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.
Taber de Forest, letter to William S. Talbot, Jan. 12, 1970, in CMA curatorial file.
William S. Talbot, letter to Kevin Avery, Oct. 27, 1986, in CMA curatorial file.